Rob and Christine
As transplant centres begin to reopen, after most procedures were suspended due to Covid-19, we rejoice in the good fortune of one of our PKD members.
Not only that, good fortune that comes in the form of his generous and brave wife!
As Rob and Christine Thomas - who only underwent surgery on August 3rd – recover at their home in west Wales, we reflect on their journey so far.
Rob was diagnosed with PKD (Polycystic Kidney Disease) in 2010 after a prolonged period of high blood pressure led his GP to request a scan. There was no family history of PKD, so the last thing Rob expected was for the investigation to reveal that he had cysts on both kidneys.
“I was scared and upset’ he says “I’d never heard of PKD and when I looked for more information online, one of the first things I read is that I’d be dead within 4 years!”
Although Rob’s GP put paid to this wholly inaccurate prognosis, as a dad to 2 young daughters – a baby and a 3 year old - he was understandably fearful for the future.
The discovery triggered a chain of events for the whole family too. Rob’s two siblings, and his daughters have since tested positive for PKD, and it’s now believed that his dad, who passed away in 2003 due to a heart related condition, may have had PKD.
Nonetheless, determined to get on with life, Rob remained active and healthy for several years.
That was until the decline in his kidney function led to increasing tiredness, pain, infections, and finally, the need for a transplant.
Christine offered to donate straight away. And it was due to the strength of her decision that Rob found it easier to agree to it "Had she been hesitant or scared, accepting her gift would have been harder, if not impossible" he says.
The couple, married in 2019 had only been together for 12 months by the time they began donor screening. And in doing so Christine joined the growing number of people who donate a kidney while they are still alive to a relative, friend or someone they do not know. In fact, about a third of all kidney transplants carried out in the UK are from living donors.
Despite the long travel to the hospital in south Wales, screening was pretty straightforward. At each stage, they learnt more and more about what to expect pre and post surgery. As Christine explains "We've always been open to discussing the issues relating to PKD, and not bury our heads in the sand when faced with the hard facts. This has helped us a lot"
Thankfully Christine was a very good match for Rob. And the surgery went ahead at The University Hospital Wales, Cardiff, which took great care to protect the couple from the dangers of Covid-19. Unfortunately this meant Rob and Christine were unable to spend time together after their operations. They had to make do with sending each other FaceTime and WhatsApp messages, despite being in nearby wards!
Since then, there have been a few tears and sleepless nights, plus one readmission for Rob. But 3 weeks post transplant they are beginning to see progress, an easing of pain and a significant improvement to Rob's kidney function! Christine is taking 3 months leave from work, while Rob continues to shield and work from home. Rob runs a pet therapy service, which - coincidently - helps people recover from physical or emotional ill-heath while in hospital, care setting, or at home.
The couple are also now starting to reflect on their shared experience, with the full reality of what they've both gained slowly sinking in. One thing they know already, is that it's made their relationship stronger and feel it will continue to grow as they fully recover.
Although, to us they're already a perfect match!
For anyone considering living organ donation, Rob and Christine offer this advice:
"Let the professionals deal with the technicalities and have the utmost faith in the surgical teams, as they're performing these operations daily. Be prepared to drink lots of fluid post transplant, expect the recovery period to be challenging, but know that progress will be made within a few weeks!"
To discover more about living organ donation, head here