Organ donation

Holly - Interview 08

Age at interview: 23

Brief outline: Holly was diagnosed with kidney failure in 2005, aged 17. After 3' years of waiting, she had a transplant in 2008 when she was 21. She is now a trustee of the charity, 'Life Life Then Give Life'.

Background: Holly is a nursery nurse and single. Ethnic background / nationality' White British.

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At the age of 17, Holly had what she thought was a sickness bug. This seemed to last longer than she’d expected and, when she went to her local surgery, her GP confirmed that it was a sickness bug. She was sent home with routine advice. Her illness continued and, over the Christmas holidays, she started to feel very unwell. Holly could not visit her local surgery as it was closed, so instead went to an emergency GP. Here, she had her blood pressure measured and was told that it was worryingly high for someone of her age. The GP sent her straight to hospital and she was admitted to the assessment ward where she had various tests, including a kidney scan.

On that same day, Holly was told that her kidneys were failing and she would need a transplant. Holly and her family were shocked and she recalled how the diagnosis ‘hit us like a ton of bricks’. She remembered how the doctor was very blunt, did not explain much and then left the room. On reflection, she believes the doctor should have taken more time and been much more sensitive.

Holly was taken to the intensive care unit for the next couple of days and then transferred to a hospital with a specialist renal unit. Here, she was put on dialysis and doctors took the time to explain more and answer her questions.

Once stabilised, Holly’s name was put on the kidney transplant waiting list, and she was given dialysis three times a week for three hours each time. During this time, Holly tried not to dwell on the transplant too much and got on with life – she finished college, went to university and became heavily involved with the charity, ‘Live Life Then Give Life’. This is an organisation that aims to save and improve the lives of organ and tissue transplant patients in the UK (http'//

Holly described this time as difficult because she constantly felt unwell with nausea, breathlessness and tiredness. Her diet was also restricted. All her friends were going out and socialising but she was unable to because of her condition. However, her friends were very supportive and she occasionally joined them for short periods of time on nights out.

Holly could not make many plans during this time because she didn’t know how well she would feel from one day to the next. She also didn’t know when she would receive a call for the transplant.

After 3½ years of waiting, Holly received the phone call to say a donor kidney was available and she may be able to have the transplant. Holly described how shocked and emotional she felt when she got this call and could not speak. On the way to the hospital, she felt a mixture of emotions' she was excited and happy about the potential kidney transplant and how it would transform and save her life. However, she felt very sad because someone else had died and their family would be grieving. Once at hospital, Holly had dialysis, various tests and, eight hours after receiving the call, transplant surgery.

It took a while for the new kidney to settle and start working. Now, though, Holly is proud to say that her new kidney is working more efficiently than she’d ever expected. She can live her life normally and goes for check-ups once every three months. Holly works for and has become a trustee of the charity, ‘Life Live Then Give Life’, and helps raise awareness of organ donation and kidney transplants. She has given talks at schools and hospitals and has appeared in newspaper articles and radio shows. Holly explains how she takes every opportunity to raise awareness of organ donation because of the ‘great difference it made to me and what it could do for other people’.


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