Hollie Bailey, 25, Caerphilly, South Wales got the best present possible from her dad...
I felt absolutely fine – so what the doctor said was a shock.
‘Your kidneys are failing,’ he explained. ‘We’re putting you on dialysis immediately.’
It was March 2015.
I was 23, and I’d been having yearly checkups on my kidneys for the last decade.
Ever since my transplant.
The first any of us knew I had a problem was when I was 13. Back then, I’d been really into dance. I’d just done an exam in the samba when I collapsed.
I was raced to hospital.
Following tests, doctors worked out what was wrong. ‘Neither of your kidneys have grown since you were born,’ they revealed. ‘They’re too small to function properly now.’
Up until then, my kidneys had been working enough to get by. Although I got tired quicker than other kids, we just thought it was one of those things.
The doctor told me, my mum Clare and my dad Rob I’d need a transplant. One healthy kidney from a donor would be enough for me to live a full, active life.
Meantime, I’d need dialysis.
‘I’m scared!’ I cried.
‘Don’t be,’ Dad reassured me. ‘We’ll be with you every step.’
Straightaway, my parents offered one of their kidneys.
Unfortunately, Mum wasn’t a match. And, just before Dad was due to be tested, an anonymous donor was found.
It meant I was saved dialysis, as I had the transplant a week after I’d collapsed.
In hospital, recovering for the next three months, I felt great. The tiredness vanished.
Doctors said there was a small chance I’d need another transplant in the future. But, if
I took my anti-rejection drugs every day, came to all of my appointments and checkups, I should be fine.
So, afterwards, I got back to being a normal teenager.
Over the next years, I finished school, became a teaching assistant and moved in with
my boyfriend James, 25.
And I took my meds, kept all of my appointments. Apart from that, I really didn’t stop to think twice about my kidney.
But then, last March, at my annual checkup, bad news… The doctor said my transplant kidney had started to fail.
‘We need to put you on dialysis, while we look for a donor,’ he said.
‘It’s at the hospital three days a week, for four hours a time!’ I cried to Dad later.
The dialysis machine basically does the job of your kidneys, cleaning your blood, but it’s a long, tiring process. I’d have to go part-time at work, and then there was the money…
‘We’ll get by, I promise,’ James said.
Another worry was that you can’t have dialysis forever – sooner or later, you need a donor.
Then Dad stepped in…
‘I’m going to give you my kidney,’ he said.
‘You don’t have to,’ I said. ‘I’ll wait for a donor.’
‘You’ll do nothing of the sort,’ Dad smiled. ‘I’ve made up my mind.’
Normally, your next of kin is your best bet for a match. Mum had been tested, but Dad hadn’t.
So we spoke to the doctor at the Heath Hospital, Cardiff, and Dad was signed up for tests.
‘Until we know if he’s a match, you need to start dialysis,’ the doctor explained to me.
It was hard going, but I was so grateful for all the doctors and nurses were doing to keep me alive.
It was six months before we got Dad’s results. The doctors had to be sure that he was a perfect match.
But last November, we got the go-ahead, and the transplant was scheduled for 4 December.
‘Sure you want to do this?’ I asked him the night before.
‘Think of it as an early Christmas present,’ he winked.
Next morning, Dad was wheeled down to theatre first. Then it was my turn.
When I came round, I knew Dad was in the room next to mine on our hospital ward.
‘Please take me to see him,’ I begged nurses.
As soon as I was fit enough, later that afternoon, I was allowed to see Dad. He was sat up in bed, reading.
‘How you doing?’ I asked.
‘It hurts,’ he grimaced. ‘You?’
‘Same,’ I laughed.
We were both sore from surgery, but we recovered well.
Dad was allowed home three days later, and me a week after.
For the next six weeks, we both had to take things easy. But my body quickly got used to its new kidney.
Come Christmas, we were fighting fit.
‘Thank you,’ I said to Dad again on Christmas Day.
‘You’ve nothing to thank me for,’ he said. ‘I love you, I’d do anything for you.’
What better Christmas present could you ask for?
Since then, I’ve been so well, started back at work full time.
And Dad and I even did the Cardiff 10k run this summer, raising over £600 for the Kidney Wales Foundation.
Doctors are hopeful I won’t need another transplant for a long time, if ever.
It’s been a year since I got Dad’s kidney. Although I’ve never seen it, I’m very fond of it – it saved my life and was given with love.
Thanks, Dad, you’re the best. I’m proud to have your kidney.