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“My sudden diagnosis felt like being dropped into a warzone”

10 June 2024

When Nick Angell, a 42-year-old IT professional, left his home in Swindon to attend a training course, the last thing he expected to learn was that his kidneys were failing. 

Nick says: “While I was away with work in 2019, I began feeling unwell. I was sick the night before, but just put it down to something I’d eaten. Like a typical man, I found a logical reason and cracked on without worrying about it. Now I look back, I probably was experiencing symptoms of kidney disease, such as cramps and itchy skin. I never put it together, and, sadly, the result was my sudden diagnosis. 

“When I went to get up in the meeting room, I couldn’t stand properly. I returned to my hotel room, called 111, and they took me to hospital. They believed I had a kidney infection and prescribed me some medication, but my blood pressure was high, and they asked me to book an appointment with my GP to investigate. I went the following day, and, after some blood tests, my GP told me to go straight to A&E. 

“It was discovered I only had 4% kidney function remaining, and I was told I would need dialysis almost immediately. It felt like being dropped into the middle of a warzone. I was apprehensive and scared about what was happening.”  

Adapting to life on dialysis

As the prospect of dialysis loomed, Nick’s attention turned to his wife, Katie, and three children. He says: “I was the only one who was working, so I was concerned whether we’d be okay financially. My youngest was only two at the time, and I was thinking about the worst-case scenario and what it would mean for them. 

A selfie picture of kidney patient Nick, wearing a cap
Nick Angell

“To begin with I did peritoneal dialysis, but more recently I’ve been receiving haemodialysis. I’ve managed to fit it into my life. My employer is amazing, and I can flex my hours as I need to. I'm fortunate I can work from home and can even work from the hospital during dialysis, as many people don’t have that option. I’ve been able to make the best of a bad situation. 

“My wife and kids support me, making sure my diet is right, moving things round to accommodate for me not feeling great and being patient with it. They understand that I could come home from dialysis and just need to go to bed because sometimes it just wipes me out. My family and my brother Chris, in particular, has been outstanding.

“I’m an example that you can live a life on dialysis. There are times when I don’t want to go sit on that bed for four and a half hours, but the time passes. You can find something to watch or something to do. Other patients have been doing it a lot longer than I have. They’re always chatty and try to make you feel more comfortable.  

“The nurses and doctors at Swindon Renal Unit are amazing. They’re keeping me alive, but in a way that takes some of the horror out of it. They try to create a good atmosphere and that can make the difference between coming out crying and coming out with a smile on your face. You can’t put a value on that. I cannot truly put into words how outstanding this team is and how incredibly dedicated they are.” 

A failed transplant

Nick hopes to be added back on to the waiting list for a kidney transplant soon, after his first transplanted kidney failed in 2022. 

Nick says: “We were in lockdown, but they’d kept a handful of people on the transplant list. I was lucky to get the call. It was the second time I’d had one. The first time they thought I might’ve had Covid-19 so couldn’t take the risk. That was a huge disappointment to go in thinking I was having a kidney transplant, then to be woken up at 3am in the morning and being told it can’t go ahead. 

“When the transplant did happen in May 2020, it’s hard to describe how amazing it felt to wake up with a new kidney. I felt eighteen again, and suddenly had the energy to get up and move. I was walking up and down the ward annoying the nurses! I was thinking ‘am I going to start living a normal life again?’ 

“After falling ill in September 2022, blood test showed my transplant was being rejected. I knew it wasn’t going to be plain sailing from that point onwards. Soon enough, I was in Oxford Churchill Hospital because my kidney function had dropped down to 8%. Doctors tried everything they could to kick the kidney back into life, but it’d already been rejected. 

“It’s hard to put into words what that felt like. Once the realisation set in that had happened, and I’d got to start again. There’s a lot of guilt there having my body reject a kidney from a deceased donor. The family must’ve gone through so much and I wonder if the kidney had gone to someone else, whether it would have worked for longer. I can’t change it though.” 

Looking to the future

Nick is keeping positive and has tried to put his failed transplant behind him. He says: “I didn’t dwell on it for long. I knew what to expect this time with dialysis, the diet and the fluid restriction – although I did move from peritoneal dialysis to haemodialysis. I’m not on the transplant waiting list again yet, but I’m having some checks to get me on soon. 

“I’m optimistic about how a new kidney would improve my life. I used to do a lot of running and I’d love to do that again. Right now, it’s just not on the cards. Even going for a walk that’s longer than half an hour would be a massive achievement and effort. I’d love to swim and spend time in the pool with the kids but can’t because I’ve got line in my chest for dialysis. I’m mainly focused on being able to spend more time with them and my wife again. 

“People have so little awareness and don’t realise the effect kidney disease can have. It’s a rollercoaster and has thrown me curveballs at every step of the way, but what I’d like to make sure comes from my story is that it is possible to keep going. I’ve kept active in both my personal and professional life, even being promoted whilst suffering my transplant rejection. There are tough days for sure, but with the support of friends, family, and those superheroes in the NHS, you can get through it.” 

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