Saturday, 30 November 2013

My annual check-up test results

I just did a happy dance through the house for the past 30 minutes, after I received my test results! To call it miraculous would be an understatement!

Here is a comparison of my GFR and Creatinine levels:

                        Before the operation    Day of discharge     6 Weeks later    One year later

Creatinine:                   78                               109                       117                   96
GFR: (ml/min)              84                           not tested                   62                   79

Creatinine is a chemical waste product in the blood that passes through the kidneys to be filtered and eliminated in urine. The chemical waste is a by-product of normal muscle contractions. Creatinine is made from creatine, a supplier of energy to the muscle. Creatinine tests help doctors determine kidney function. Normal values are between 80 and 120 depending on age and size. 

Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is a test used by physicians and other medical professionals to see if the kidneys are working correctly. In basic terms, it is a measurement of how much liquid and waste is passing from the blood through the tiny filters in the kidney, called the glomeruli, and out into the urine during each minute. The test measures how much creatinine is in the blood. This shows how well the kidneys are performing. In a normal healthy person the GFR stays close to the same value all of the time. The test is done by taking blood from a person and sending it to a laboratory. Normal values are between 80ml/min and 110ml/min depending on age and size.

So as you can see from this comparison, my kidney function with just one is almost as good as it was with two! Compare this to the fact that I was told during my tests not to be alarmed if the GFR is as low as 40, because that's apparently acceptable for donors. 

Now you'll understand why I'm so happy and grateful! I saved my friend's life and I'm physically no worse off because of it. It's truly a miracle.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Our 1-year transplant anniversary!

It's surreal to think that it's been exactly a year today since our very successful transplant operation! Some days it feels like yesterday, and other days like a dream.

What's undeniable is how well we're both doing. Pieter's creatinine levels have been normal since the day he received his new kidney, and is making the most of his good health. Pieter and Lizelle are finally fulfilling their dream of moving out of the city to leafy Surrey this weekend to enjoy a quieter life amongst all their friends. They also recently had a lovely 3-week tour of Italy. Pieter is healthy, positive, full of energy and most of all full of life.

I've been back to my full health after just 3 months and feel extremely grateful and blessed to be my old self as before the operation.

We would again like to thank everyone involved in this miracle: family, friends, colleagues, blog visitors, and everyone at the Royal Free London Renal Unit. Without all your love, support and expertise this would not have been possible.

Today I had my annual check-up, which is routine and which I  will have every year for the foreseeable future.  I was told that I'm still in very good health and that everything is normal, as can be expected. How amazing that one can give someone an organ and still lead a normal life!

My lovely wife, Natasja wanted to do something special for those unfortunate people who are still struggling with kidney disease/ failure, to show them there are people in the world who care about them, and to bring them comfort and hope.  So on 09 November she organised a crochet event to raise funds for Kidney Research UK, raise awareness about kidney disease, and to crochet granny squares which were used to create beautiful blankets for dialysis patients. The event was a big success and we managed to raise £504 on the day, with enough granny squares to make 7 blankets. You can read all about the event on her blog my clicking HERE.

Today I had the honour and privilege of hand delivering the blankets to the Royal London Hospital's Dialysis Centre.

These lovely ladies have offered to give the blankets to a few of the most needy individuals to bring them some comfort in these difficult times. I wish to show them that there are altruists out there, willing to help the sick and needy, asking for nothing in return. I'm sure our story will give them hope and keep them positive, that they can also experience the miracle of a new life.

I had the pleasure of personally handing over two of the blankets to two very happy and amazed people. They were so pleasantly surprised that a complete stranger would come and hand over such a lovely gift to them. And that's exactly why we decided to do it. We're all connected, and we're all a part of God (not apart from God) so what we do for others, we also do for ourselves.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

London Bridges Walk 2013

Hi All

As part of celebrating my health I have registered for my first charity event on the 14th of July doing the London Bridges Walk 2013 for Kidney Research UK.

This will be the 229th day of being dialysis free after my successful transplant. I have also become a Development Board member of Kidney Research UK in order to give something back to as many people as I can who is not as fortunate as me being dialysis free and able to enjoy life with family and friends.

Please feel free to join us by registering for the London Bridges Walk 2013, even Trinity (our dog) is joining in... alternatively your support would be greatly appreciated where all proceeds will contribute towards the research of kidney disease.




Thank you for your support.

Best wishes,

Pieter, Lizelle, John and Natasja

PS - Please feel free to forward this to your friends in supporting this cause.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Happy days

This weekend, which marks a year since Pieter and I met, we had the pleasure of spending some great quality time together. We are both doing extremely well and are so very grateful for it.

We both love fast cars, and we were in heaven when we had the opportunity to attend a super car event at the Top Gear test track in Dunfold, England. The event was held and organised by The Children's Trust to raise awareness and funds. All the drivers donated their time and cars free of charge, and the money we paid to be driven around the track in style and at great speed went to The Chidren's Trust. Everyone was a winner! I was driven around the track in an Ariel Atom and an Aston Martin DB9, and Pieter in the Audi R8 V10!

I made the following video as a bit of fun, with the events highly exaggerated, but not impossible!

Every time I see Pieter he looks healthier and happy. And it reminds me why I donated a kidney to him; not for money or fame, just one man seeing the need in another, wanting to help him, without expecting anything in return.

In this world, the sad reality is that everything revolves around money and power. Many people will do anything to obtain it, thinking that's what will bring them happiness. "If I have more money, a bigger house, a better job, I will be happy" we all think at some point. And without these motivations and rewards, many people wouldn't even consider helping a loved one, let alone a stranger. And that's what's wrong with this world. Most of the wrong in this world is not something someones God is doing to us, we are doing it to each other.

I often get asked what I received in return for helping Pieter. I received a truly grateful, happy, healthy and amazing life-long friend. And that is more valuable than any possesion this world has to offer.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Six months later

27 November 2012 - 27 May 2013

I'm reminded on a daily basis how grateful I am for my health, if it is in the morning when I wake-up feeling refreshed after a good nights rest, on my way home from work knowing that I will be spending the evening with Lizelle or having a wonderful weekend with friends.

I have been attending my regular clinic visits at the Royal London Hospital and are very happy to report that the results looks amazing and the Dr's are also very happy with my progress to date. My chronic medication has now stabilised around levels where John's kidney performs at an optimal level and I'm appreciative of all these wonderful benefits of having a new life where I can just enjoy every day with loved ones and friends. My mind and thoughts are once again clear and looking forward to new challenges.

I recently had the opportunity to join the Development Board of Kidney Research UK and what a wonderful experience meeting people who are so dedicated in doing such amazing work in helping others with kidney failure. This is a totally new challenge for me as I aim to raise a minimum of £150k in the next 3 years for Kidney Research UK in order to help others - will keep you updated on my progress and charity activities.

"More than three million people in the UK are currently at risk of kidney disease. A lack of public awareness in relation to kidney disease, combined with the illness’ ability to affect anyone, regardless of age, and the fact it presents few recognisable symptoms, means it should be a national health priority. In reality, however, very little government funding is set aside for research into kidney disease."

Furthermore, John is doing very well six months after donating his kidney to me and we all regularly meet up to have a good laugh as there is always something to celebrate! Looking forward to a summer of many activities and off course weekend barbeque's.

May you all have a wonderful day as there is so many things to be grateful for - and your health is just one of them!

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Advice for potential living donors

They say there is no better teacher than experience. So through my own experience of being a living kidney donor, I'll share some important tips should you consider becoming a living donor too.

Most importantly: do your research and find out as much as possible about the benefits, process, procedure and risks as you can. There is a lot of information available on the internet, where I found most of mine. You can also speak to the Renal Co-ordinator at a hospital. Below are links to a few very useful sites:

What helped me in my decision to make the donation was reading all the success stories of other donors. There are more than a hundred personal stories to be found here:

Before hospitalisation:
  • Ensure that you are as healthy and fit as possible with a healthy diet and physical exercise. The better shape you are in before the operation, the faster your recovery time will be and the smaller the risk of complications.
  • Minimise your daily stress as best you can. Stress is bad for your body and state of mind. Being overloaded by work before I left on sick leave with the fear of a very large operation caused me two weeks of agonising tension headaches. Try to stop working a week before the operation if possible. It's also best not to think about the "what ifs" during this time, as it can also cause stress.
  • If you haven't already, update your will and ensure you have sufficient life insurance. It's not nice to think about, but there is a 1 in 3000 mortality rate for living donors. Telling your life insurance provider before the operation of your intention will ensure that you are covered during the operation, and for any event that may cause your death as a result of the donation.
  • Pack a trolley suitcase with comfortable clothes, underwear and toiletries. I took Crocs shoes to walk around with because they are comfortable to walk in on the cold hospital floors, and you can shower in them. The main cut which is about 12cm long is about 3cm below the belly button, which is right on the belt line for most trousers/skirts. Make sure you wear tracksuit trousers on the day of discharge as the cut will be very sensitive.
  • Take something with you to keep you occupied as you will be in bed for 3-6 days. Books, music and movies on a tablet or smartphone are a great way to pass time. 
  • Take earplugs and eye flaps to block light and noise. There is normally activity in and around the ward all throughout the night.
  • Have a very light meals the day before the operation, I can't stress this enough. The operation will cause your digestive system to go to sleep for a day or two, and any food left in there will remain in there until your first bowel movement. You don't want that to be a something spicy, trust me!

At the hospital:

  • Stay positive and focussed on what you are there to do. You will constantly be surrounded by sick people, loud machines and staff which can add to your stress levels.
  • Be insistent. There are only a few nurses and doctors attending to many patients, and you can easily be forgotten about. I waited from 3pm to 10pm the night before the operation for my chest x-ray before making a fuss, and had to go to the Emergency Room x-ray department as the local one was already unmanned, and only got to bed at around midnight.
  • Ask questions. Nurses and doctors may give you injections and medication without explaining what they are and their side effects. If you're not happy with it, ask for an alternative. I remember being given pain tablet that only days later I was told contributed to my nausea!
  • Go easy on the morphine if you haven't had it before. As I mentioned previously, I had a bad reaction to it and the anaesthesia, causing severe nausea, shivers and sweats. Only use it when you start feeling discomfort.
  • Since childhood my mom has always given me Ginger Ale to drink for nausea. Peppermint is also very good. Take some peppermint lozenges with and keep them in your bedside drawer. They are also very handy for the days when you don't get up to brush your teeth.
  • As uncomfortable as it is, try to get out of bed and walking the day after the operation. This will wake up your digestive system. The sooner you can pass urine, the sooner you will have the catheter removed. You will not be discharged before you have a bowel movement! Because I couldn't eat or drink for two days due to the nausea, I had to stay in hospital for an extra two days.
  • Try not to lie in one position for too long. Being in bed for about 20 hours a day takes its toll on the back and muscles, and you can easily develop bed sores. Even if you can't stand upright, try to sit upright in the bedside chair.
  • Put your hand on your cut and apply light pressure before coughing and sneezing. The will minimise the pain.
  • Drink plenty of water to ensure you are passing enough urine - this is vital to monitor the function of your bladder and remaining kidney. Otherwise you will be connected to a drip to keep you hydrated.
At home:
  • Get as much rest as you can during the first few weeks after the operation. Your body will be working hard at healing the cuts and adjusting to the single kidney, using up all your energy. 
  • You may not feel like it, but try to eat healthy, high-energy foods to give your body the energy it needs.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, preferably water, and no caffeine or artificial sweeteners.
  • Bend with your knees, not your back when bending over. Avoid any strain on those scars.
  • Take showers, not baths until the scars are closed and healed. Cover them with waterproof plasters to keep the water from softening the skin which may cause tears.
  • Don't strain yourself by lifting heavy items or doing too much exercise. Those orders were given by the doctor for a good reason. Take it slow and be patient. It takes time for the body to heal and adjust.
  • Keep hourly track of what you eat, drink and the medication you take. This will help you keep an eye on your fluid intake, and help it figure out what medication gives you any side effects.
If after reading all this and you're still motivated to go through with it, I'm very proud of you. It's tough, both physically and mentally, but only for a short time. After a few months you will be back to your old health and radiate with pride and love for what you've just done. Someone at work told me last week that I look different, that it looks like there is a halo around my head. I do feel different. I feel like I have finally done something really amazing with my life, made a difference, on a human scale. It makes the strive for success and the gaining of wealth feel almost feeble. As a society we are brainwashed to join the rat race and climb the corporate ladder at any cost, and we become blind to the needy, the poor, and the sick among us.

Keep focussed on the life you are saving, there is no greater motivator. Your altruism will echo through all eternity.