Meet Lee. She is our Witness Care Officer but she also has an incredibly inspirational story we’d like to share with you.
After scoring a silver medal in badminton doubles and a gold medal in singles at the Transplant Sport Racquets Tournament in December 2018, and most recently a Gold medal in ladies doubles at the British Transplant games, Lee has been asked to represent Team GB in the World Transplant Games.
Lee underwent a life-saving kidney transplant in February 2018 following a diagnosis of Crescentic IgA Nephropathy, an autoimmune disease where her antibodies attacked her own kidneys.
Now, she is playing in the international championship in a bid to raise awareness about joining the organ donor register and to help others going through a transplant.
Read her story below:
Lee had always been a talented badminton player and it was following a tournament in May 2014 that she received a diagnosis that would change her life.
She had gone to the Doctor’s suffering with minor symptoms - blurred vision and exhaustion.
She said: “I’d just played a badminton tournament and I was feeling really tired and drained. My eyes were quite blurry and everyone kept saying I needed to get checked out for diabetes.
“I was nagged into going to the doctors and managed to get an appointment. I was sent for a blood test the next morning and that same evening I received a phone call from the hospital. A doctor asked me if I had ever had problems with my kidneys - I said no. He told me I had a serious problem and I would need to see a Doctor. When I asked when, he said ‘you need to put your coat on now’.
“The same night I was told that my kidneys were only functioning at 4% and I would probably need dialysis and a kidney transplant! I was admitted to hospital straight away and over the next few days I had lots of tests and a kidney biopsy.
“I was then diagnosed and told that without dialysis I would only have about 3 weeks left to live. The Doctors couldn’t believe I was still standing.”
Shortly after diagnosis, Lee started dialysis.
She continued: “One minute I was fine, going to work and leading a normal life and then the next minute I needed all these treatments. It was a shock and a very steep learning curve. Before all of this I knew nothing about kidneys but now that has definitely changed.”
Lee was put on the transplant list straight away but what she didn’t know was it would be four years before she received the phone call.
“It was just a case of waiting but I just put it out of my mind. It was a shock when I got the phone call.
“It was a Friday and I was getting ready for my dialysis session when the phone rang. It was the transplant coordinator from the hospital. I thought ‘this could be it!
“She told me they’d got me a kidney and it was a brilliant match. I had to get to the Northern General Hospital within an hour and a half to undergo last minute tests.
“Everything went well. I had my usual dialysis session that afternoon and then was taken down for my operation at 2am the following morning.
“I don’t remember much about it, I was that tired and there were so many emotions flooding through me. The next thing I knew I was waking up.
“The operation was a success and the transplant has changed my life completely. I am married and I have three Sons in their twenties and to know that I will live to see them get married and have children is amazing.”
Although Lee doesn’t know anything about her donor she has written to the family to convey her thanks.
“Both me and my donor’s family had life changing days that day. I got my new kidney but they lost a loved one. My life was getting better, their life was getting worse. That thought is always on your mind. Because of my donor I am able to go on living my life. Thanks alone will never be enough.
“Playing in the World Transplant Games this month is a massive honour and I am so proud to represent my country.”
By taking part she hopes to encourage as many people as possible to sign up to the register.
She said: “Just do it! It takes two minutes. You can sign up online or phone the 24-hour donor line on 0300 123 23 23. You are not just changing the recipient’s life but their entire family’s lives. When you’re gone you can’t take your organs with you so please become a donor.
“The main point I’d like to get across is to encourage people to talk about their decision to donate. Tell everyone about your wishes. This is just as important as signing the register.
“Please do it, it is life changing. It really is the gift of life.”
The World Transplant Games will take place on 17-23 August 2019 in Newcastle.
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