About RTÉ Television
The Afternoon Show
The Afternoon ShowRTÉ One, Weekdays, 4.00pm

Mother donates kidney to son

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Geraldine Jenkins:
What kind of a kid was Keith?

He was your typical boy, into everything, very lively, energetic young boy even though he was asthmatic.

When did you notice that something was wrong with Keith?

Keith was a normal 18 he had started the first year of a four year course in Theology and Philosophy at All Hallows College, Drumcondra, . Keith had being complaining of having leg pains and was also losing weight. His energy levels were also very low. I initially put this down to the stress and strains of a new way of life in Dublin, but by March of last year it was clear that all was not right. On hearing of these symptoms, Dr. Oliver White in The Health Centre 0n Barrack St Sligo did a full blood test . When the results were returned a few days later they showed that Keiths kidney function was only 10%. Keith was admitted to Sligo General Hospital but transferred the following day to Beaumont in Dublin where he was put on 4 hour dialysis treatment, 3 times a week. Keith's name was put on the kidney transplant list along with hundreds of other patients.

How did you all cope during this time?

The dialysis regime was exhausting, but Keith was so brave. He even continued on with his studies. The college was so great and they kindly rescheduled his first year exams which he eventually passed with flying colours. We were so proud of him. He returned to All Hallows for his second year, being taxied three nights a week to Beaumont for his dialysis treatment. It was a grueling schedule which was taking its toll on poor Keith, and there was still no sign of a donor organ becoming available.

It was very difficult at times but we just had to keep going. We just had to try and remain positive and hope for a happy outcome. There were so many people praying and lighting candles including ourselves, that I knew everything would work out fine.

What was his dialysis treatment like? Did you stay with Keith while he was going through this?

When Keith was first diagnosed end of March 08, he was in Beaumont for 3 wks. On his return to Sligo he then commenced dialysis in Sligo through the summer months. He was unable to sit his summer exams, but the college kindlt rescheduled them for Sept. On his return to All Hallows college to commence his 2nd yr inSept 08 he then returned to Beaumont for his thrice weekly dialysis. During holiday time ie Christmas, Easter he received dialysis in Sligo.

During the 3 wks that Keith was in Beaumont after his diagnosis, his dad Martin and I stayed in the Renal Support Centre which is located in the grounds of the hospital. I cannot express fully what a Godsend this centre is to the families of renal patients. It is a 10 bedroom centre,(all bedroms are en-suite) which is provided free of charge to the families. There is one bedroom per family consisting of 2 single beds or a double bed with bunk beds. It consists of a fully equipped kitchen, utility room,extremely large sitting room, tranquility room and beautiful gardens. It is run by volunteers and relies heavily on donations by families when they leave or at a later stage if that is more convenient.

When do you decide that you would try to become Keith's donor?

I was told about the living donor programme and as a family it was something we considered immediately.

{The Living donor programme - is an option for patients that are in end stage kidney failure who need a kidney transplant, patients who are on the deceased donor list for transplant, if they have a family member or partner or close friend who would like to consider becoming a living donor, there are a number of tests that have to be done to find out if someone is suitable}

I had to get tested to see if she would be a compatible donor for Keith. I went through all kinds of test

1.Blood pressure- to exclude hypertension

2.Urine Analysis- to identify any underlying conditions

3.Blood tests- for routine analysis

4. Creatinine clearance- If the kidneys are not functiononh well the creatinine level rises. By measuring the creatinine and the amount being excreted in the urine, a more precise assessment of kidney function can be made.

5. Xrays- A series of chest xays, especially of the chest area, are taken to ensure a normal function.

6. ECG- A cardiograph of the heart function is recorded to exclude heart .disease.

7.Ultrasound- This is a scan which checks the size and shape of the kidneys to exclude any abnormalities.

8. KUB - Xray of kidneys

9. Renal Angiogram- This is the most invasive test which involves an injection of dye into one of the larger arterties. A special kind of xray is used to reveal all the details of the kidneys and the vessels going to and from them. This is important for the surgeons to see which has the easier access for them.

That is a lot of tests, how long did that take?

It took about 6 months but I passed all the tests and we were delighted as I knew this would mean a new lease of life for my Son Keith. They gave us a a date at the end of August 2009. But I received a call on the 22nd of July 2009 from Aileen one of the transplant co-ordinators in Beaumont Hospital to say they had a cancellation for the following Tuesday the 28th July 2009. So I decided there and then to go for it as the surgery date had been hanging over myself and Keith for so long. We headed to Beaumont the following day for final cross matching of our bloods. I could not believe that the day was finally around the corner?

Were you nervous?

I was so scared the night before the operation but also knew there was no going back and that we would both be in the excellent hands of our surgeons.

Tell me about the operation.

We were admitted on Mon 27th and scheduled for theatre first thing the following morning. My surgeon was Mr Gordon Smyth, and Miss Dilly Litttle would be looking after Keith. I was told from the outset that I would be a lot sicker than Keith after my operation so I was expecting to be in an enormous amount of pain. This did not happen and while I was very stiff and uncomfortable, I was sitting in a chair the next day and then progressed to walking in to visit Keith who was in the next ward. Keith was a little slower to recover after his operation as were expecting this. Having undergone 2 previous operations we knew that the anesthetic would cause him to have blurred vision and loss of appetite for about 2 days. While there are risks associated with any surgery, the number of tests carried out on the donor in the months leading up to the operation are done to ensure that the donor must be in tip top physical and mental health. I think I knew in my heart from passing the first test that it would my kidney that Keith would receive and that he would not be getting a call to say a donor had become available.

When you first saw Keith after the operation was emotions were you experiencing?

Relief that it was all over but I was also worried as to how his body would react to the new kidney.

Can you remember what he said to you after he woke up?

He was very groggy for almost 2 days after the op but said he felt fine and was wondering how long he would be in hospital.

How long did you have to stay in hospital?

We were both allowed home one week later and we are both recovering very well.

Does Keith have many check ups?

He has to go to Beaumont twice weekly for monitoring and I will have a 3wk, 3 month, 6 month and 12month check up.

What about your work, how long before you can/could go back?

I was told that I could expect to be off work for between 8-12 weeks. I am employed for the past 29 yrs with Dunnes Stores and as there is quite a lot of lifting involved in my duties, I have been advised that the full 12weeks will be more beneficial for my full recovery. I have always enjoyed excellent health through out my life and am now still enjoying it. I am taking no medication since the operation as I have no need to. The only way I can describe how I feel is heaviness on my left side which is getting less every day.

What an amazing thing to do for someone. I know the bond between a Mother and her Children is so strong, you must be so happy when you see him now and how his life is returning to normal?

To see a healthy colour in Keith's face is so rewarding, but the best feeling is knowing he does not have to endure long sessions on dialysis 3 days a week anymore. Keith should be well recovered to start his 3rd yr in All Hallows college in Drumcondra, Dublin where he is studying Theology and Philosophy. His Dad (Martin) and I are so proud of him and the way he has handled his situation.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I would like to say to anyone who may or even may not be considering becoming a kidney donor that every test will be done to ensure that they are in the best physical and mental health before a date is set for surgery. Knowing what I know now, and the way I am recovering I would have absolutely no hesitation in doing it all over again.

And of course we would like to thank the Doctors and staff in Sligo and Beaumont for their help and support the Transplant Co-ordinators, Phyllis and Aileeen (Beaumont Hospital) and everyone associated with the Living Donor programme.

I would also like to ask people to carry a donor card available from all chemists or by contacting the:
Irisk Kidney Association (I.K.A)
Donor House,
Park West ,
Dublin 12.

Locall 1890-543 639