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Kathryn’s Story

Twenty-five years ago, Kathryn faced kidney failure after being diagnosed with the rare disease, IgA vasculitis. After years of struggling with the disease, she received a transplant from her dad in 2013 and began sharing her own experiences to help raise awareness of the life-changing benefits of living kidney donation.

Image of Kathryn in hospital

I struggled mentally and physically

Kathryn was just 13 years old when she was rushed into Great Ormond Street hospital with crippling stomach and joint pain. Her family had received a call from her doctor to say recent blood tests showed signs of kidney failure, and it turned out that the rash she had noticed the previous autumn was a symptom of IgA vasculitis. Her kidneys had failed, and immediate dialysis and plasma exchange were necessary.

Kathryn says: “It came from nowhere but in the space of five months it caused my kidneys to completely fail which was a real shock. It massively changed my life. I missed a whole year of school in year eight. At that time, there was no social media, we had no mobile phones and I lived in a little village, so I lost touch with a lot of friends and that is really difficult when you’re 13 years old.”

Treatment restored Kathryn’s kidney function to around 40%, but the disease continued to have a huge impact. She says: “I struggled physically and mentally. Having the treatments, dialysis and being hooked up to those machines was a lot to take in. I was on a high dose of steroids, put on weight and couldn’t fit in my clothes, which made me self-conscious. It really knocked my confidence.”

Knowing she would one day need a transplant, Kathryn tried to live her life with as much freedom as possible. Passing her GCSEs, A Levels and graduating university in Sheffield were huge achievements.

Kathryn knows there is lots more to be done to prevent and treat the causes of kidney disease, but she is determined to raise more awareness of the reality of living with kidney disease.

Image of Kathryn with her dad on her wedding day

The greatest gift from my dad

Once in work in her twenties, Kathryn’s kidneys deteriorated. She says: “I had to cut my hours because I couldn’t cope with the tiredness. There is nothing like the tiredness you get when your kidneys are failing.”

Dialysis became necessary and Kathryn says: “It was really harsh on my body; my blood pressure was through the roof, and I couldn’t do the full four hours because it made me sick.”

Kathryn’s parents offered their kidneys for transplantation, and it was her dad who went into surgery with her in 2013. She says: “I got this greatest gift from my dad, and I always want to look after it.”

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