Keith Parsons, aged 52 from Plymouth, received a kidney from an altruistic donor in 2009. Here he describes what it was like waiting for a kidney transplant.
“I am someone who accepts whatever life brings along. So I did get used to being on dialysis,” says Keith.
“But there is no doubt that being dialysed three times a week does interfere with your life and your family’s life.”
Keith was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease in 1995, at the age of 36, and was started on kidney dialysis in 2007, when he was 48.
He used to go to dialysis three times a week, after work. He would arrive at the hospital at about 5.30pm and would usually be able to start dialysing sometime between 5.45pm and 6.30pm. This would depend on the availability of the machine and how much work the nurse had to do, putting other patients onto the machines before him. Eventually he learned how to prepare himself for dialysis, which speeded things up a bit.
He would be on the dialysis machine for four hours, finishing at about 10.00pm or 10.30pm.
One of Keith’s problems was that the dialysis sessions left him stimulated and exceptionally awake. “I would be buzzing and could not get to sleep for several hours, and that meant I did not get enough sleep.”
Being on dialysis also affected his diet. “I was not allowed to eat liver, which I loved, or bananas, which were also a favourite.” He had to eat a diet that was low in phosphorus and potassium. He could eat chicken and pasta and rice, which he liked, but he was only allowed to drink three quarters of a litre of liquid a day, unless he was taking a lot of exercise, when that was increased to one and a half litres.
His energy levels were low. He found that it took him 45 minutes to cycle the eight miles to work, a journey that used to take more like 25 minutes. When he went for walks on the moors on a Saturday with a friend, they had to take frequent stops in order to conserve energy. He also had to give up playing 11-a-side football, which he loved, because of fears of being accidentally bruised by another player and damaging his already failing kidneys.
He was not allowed to sit in the sun, which he missed, and he also felt the cold, having to wear sweaters when his workmates were all in T-shirts. His complexion was also yellowish. “I used to call it my renal tan.”
His employers, the local council, were very understanding, but he didn’t like being unable to pull his weight in his job as a mason paviour, a job that involves paving, kerb laying, concrete repairs and highway construction. “I used to feel guilty if I had to have a sit down after 20 minutes or so.” He frequently had to take time off work, in one year taking almost 40% of the year off.
Keith’s transplant transformed his life. In the 18 months since the transplantation he has only had four days off work.
For details of Keith’s life after his transplant operation, read about the change a kidney made for Keith.