Organ Donation Week 2018: Karen and Paul’s story
Karen and Paul Creasy from Thorpe St Andrew, Norwich are marking a very special anniversary this year.
It’s been almost ten years since Karen, 63, a hairdresser, and Paul, 57, a Cardiology Project Manager at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital underwent a ‘Paired Transplant’ whereby Paul donated one of his kidneys to a woman from London, while the woman’s husband gave a kidney to Karen.
Karen, whose husband Paul’s kidney was not compatible for her, benefited from laws introduced in 2006 allowing live donations from strangers.
Karen explains how the transplant gave her a second chance at life. “In the months prior to my transplant, I was just existing not living- I was tired and depressed and carrying out simple day-to-day tasks got more and more difficult. Words can’t describe just how much the transplant changed both my life and my family’s life.”
“I was 17 when I was told I had a ‘Nephrotic Syndrome’ – a form of kidney damage which I had been born with and which we believe runs in my family. I’ll be honest, at the time; I just put the diagnosis to the back of my head. When I was 20, I was then told that in later life I would need to have dialysis and go on the transplant waiting list.”
Karen was 51 when she started haemodialysis and joined the transplant list. She attended NNUH for the first six months of her dialysis three times a week, but the couple were told that those who are on dialysis at home have better outcomes.
“So I decided to build a room at the end of our garden” explains Paul. “Anything that would make life a little easier for Karen and the family we did. We’ve got two sons and at the time they were just young teenagers. We needed to keep life as normal as possible for all the family, with Karen continuing to work part-time whilst on dialysis too. I’ve worked as a Senior Nurse in Cardiology for most of my career so we were grateful I could care for Karen in the comfort of our own home.”
Paul and Karen had looked into ‘Paired Transplants’ and it was an option the couple were hopeful for. Paul said: “At the time, this option was a relatively new one for those on the transplant list. I knew that I wasn’t a match with Karen, but there was a chance there was another couple in a similar situation to us and who could be the perfect match.”
Karen was on dialysis for a total of two years before they got a call to say a suitable couple had been found. Karen said: “I remember the day of the transplant very well. We’d got to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, and Paul went into surgery very early in the morning. They then transported Paul’s kidney by car down to London. The kidney that I was going to receive was then transported up to Cambridge and I went into theatre around lunchtime. The seamless co-ordination needed for all of the operations is astonishing.”
Paul said: “It was all very surreal. I remember in the days I was recovering, I’d head down the hospital corridor to go visit Karen with my drip stand to check how she was doing. I’ll be honest, I was feeling pretty rough but I had high hopes that it was all going to be worth it.”
Paul was in hospital for just five days before he was discharged, whilst Karen stayed in longer before being discharged on Christmas Day 2008.
Both Karen and Paul explain how it was a ‘huge sigh of relief’ for the family to have Karen back home post-operation. Since the transplant, Karen now only has to have a check-up at NNUH every four months.
Karen said: “In the years leading up to the transplant, it was a really tough and traumatic period of our lives. The transplant was the best Christmas present I could ever had hoped for and I am so grateful to Paul for going through it all for me. I’m also very grateful to the other couple involved in the paired transplant, who without, the transplant could not have gone ahead.”
For more information about Organ Donation, please visit: https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/