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Stephen's story

Stephen, a sports mad grandfather and gold medallist from Bishops Lydeard, shares his story on the 25th anniversary of his kidney transplant! 

The plucky 75-year-old retired program analyst for British Steel was diagnosed with PKD at 48, following a chance health check at work. Until then he'd had no health concerns and felt perfectly well, but on noticing the mobile screening unit thought, "why not get checked". Little did he expect to be told that he had high blood pressure.

This led to blood tests and an ultrasound scan, which not only confirmed he had PKD but that he would require dialysis in the very near future. This was the first he’d heard of the disease, as neither of his parents had it. In fact his mum lived a full and healthy life until the ripe old age of 96.

It’s likely therefore that Stephen developed PKD due to a ‘spontaneous mutation’, which arises in approximately 10 to 15 out of every 100 people.

Stephen Carol

Stephen, wife Carol and their granddaughter

It was only 2 years later, aged 50, when he had no alternative but to start dialysis. At the same time, he was forced to take early retirement on medical grounds. Initially he had peritoneal dialysis, which unfortunately wasn’t a successful treatment for him - 5 months on, after becoming critically ill, he switched to haemodialysis.

Even then, Stephen admits that he “didn’t fare well on dialysis, but plodded through it”.

Fortunately his life took a dramatic turn for the better when he received a phone call at 1.30am on 25th May 1997. It was his consultant with the news that a kidney had become available.

Stephen and his wife Carol made the dash to St James's hospital in Leeds, popularly known as Jimmy's, the subject of the ground-breaking TV documentary than ran from 1986 to 1997.

The transplant went ahead, and several hours later the first thing Stephen recalls was waking up feeling overwhelmed by all the tubes and monitors, but incredibly grateful to his donor and her family.

He made a good recovery and by September that year he was eager to return to work. But despite walking the 2 miles to the job centre each day and umpteen job applications, he faced lots of rejection; he thinks due to his age and medical history.

Stephen Barker medals crop 2

Stephen and his well deserved medals

Determined to keep going, however, he finally landed an administrative job with the manager of a local dairy, who valued his maturity and no nonsense style!

He also took his love of sport to a new level by competing in the British Transplant Games “I’ve been going to the games since 2002 and really enjoy the competitiveness,” enthuses the eternally optimistic 75-year-old.

Running for over 40 years, the British Transplant Games are a celebration of life. Taking place in different host cities every Summer, the event attracts around 1000 transplant athletes and more than 1500 supporters, giving transplant recipients as young as 5 the chance to compete in more than 25 sports.

Its aim is to raise awareness of the need for organ donation, encourage transplant recipients to lead active lifestyles and show appreciation for, and remember, donors and their families.

As Stephen says, “My kidney transplant was a life saver. It made me realise how precious life is and gave me the chance to see my daughter achieve great things with her career and my two granddaughters, now aged 19 and 13, grow up".

Sadly, Carol, his wife of 49 years passed away 4 years ago, within 5 weeks of being diagnosed with Leukaemia. It was a cruel blow for the couple and a heartbroken Stephen who had always believed “I’d be the first to go because of PKD”.  

Since then the Games continued to be a lifeline for him, a chance to pay tribute to his donor and help to raise awareness of organ donation. "Without the transplant, I wouldn’t be here now”, he stresses.

To date he’s won 8 medals, from bronze through to gold for competing in a variety of events, including fishing, darts, bowling and table tennis!

Stephen Carol

Anniversary cake, baked by his granddaughter!

As he marks this special anniversary, Stephen muses why he thinks his transplanted kidney is still going strong, "along with a big dose of good luck, I eat well, take my medication religiously each day, get plenty of exercise, and although I was never a big drinker, I don’t drink alcohol at all now!"

Following a minor heart attack recently, it's unlikely that Stephen will compete in the Games this year. We do hope to see him, along with our other supporters and competitors when we attend the Games in Leeds on July 30th and 31st, the first since the pandemic put a stop to live events in 2020. 

Until then, we wish Stephen a very happy 25th kidneyversary!

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ADPKD, OrganDonation, Dialysis