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Last Updated: Monday, 10 September 2007, 06:33 GMT 07:33 UK
'Despite the wait I enjoy life'
By Jane Elliott
Health reporter, BBC News

Michelle Aldridge and son George
Michelle Aldridge has been on dialysis
There are 6,627 patients waiting for kidney transplants, but only about 2,000 organs available annually.

Currently a staggering 3,000 dialysis patients die on or before even reaching the transplant list.

The same number of kidneys are either buried or cremated daily.

Kidney experts say much more needs to be done to make people more aware of chronic kidney disease, how to treat it and to improve the chance of patients getting a new organ, although not all those on the list are suitable for transplants.

Getting weaker

When Michelle Aldridge became sick she assumed she would be better in 24 hours.

Three weeks later she was still vomiting, and had lost over three stones (20Kg).

She was diagnosed with a rare condition - Goodpasture's Syndrome - that had destroyed her kidneys.

At the moment I feel quite well, but there is no doubt I would not be here if it was not for dialysis
Michelle Aldridge

The syndrome is caused by a fault in the immune system, which instead of attacking invaders, turns inwards and attack's the body's own organs.

"At first I was not worried, as my husband and son had got better after 24 hours," said Michelle.

"But when I was still vomiting two weeks later I went to my GP who said he thought it was gastro-enteritis.

"He gave me medicine, but I was still being sick. I was getting weaker and weaker."

Three weeks later she saw a different GP who ordered a blood test, which finally revealed the cause of her illness.

Dialysis

Doctors told her that she already had end-stage renal failure and needed to be placed immediately onto dialysis and have six months of chemotherapy to help deal with her symptoms.

Michelle felt constantly tired and had to give up her work as a waitress.

She thought her tiredness was simply down to having a toddler, but further tests showed she also had renal anaemia and needed to take Erythropoietin (EPO), a hormone naturally produced by the kidneys.

It is injected under the skin and stimulates red blood cell production.

Currently we are doing five transplants in the UK a day, if we were doing 10 we would have no waiting list.
Tim Stratham

Six years later Michelle is on dialysis waiting for a transplant. Her brother has offered to be considered as a living donor, but Michelle is reluctant at this stage for him to endanger his health for her.

"I am not saying never, but he has his own family to think of," said Michelle.

While she is well enough she wants to wait for suitable donated organ from a dead recipient.

The average waiting time for an adult kidney transplant is 841 days. Children wait on average 164 days.

But although Michelle knows her life expectancy without a transplant is seriously compromised, she is grateful to get receiving treatment at all.

Somebody who starts dialysis in their 30s has the same life expectancy as a person in their 80s without it.

"I have been on the waiting list for six years now. At the moment I feel quite well, but there is no doubt I would not be here if it was not for dialysis.

"Dialysis should not be considered the end of the world.

"I never feel as well as I do the morning after dialysis, I can get up with the energy to enjoy life."

Future hopes

Tim Stratham, of the National Kidney Federation, said the government is currently looking into what can be done to ease the kidney organ donor crisis, but he said more is urgently needed.

"Currently we are doing five transplants in the UK a day, if we were doing 10 we would have no waiting list.

"We need more transplant surgeons, more operating time and a transplant culture in hospitals."


SEE ALSO
Everyone 'should donate organs'
17 Jul 07 |  Health
'I'm waiting for a transplant'
31 Aug 06 |  Health
Transplant medallist's organ call
03 Jul 07 |  Edinburgh, East and Fife
Dilemma of transplant boy parents
07 Jun 07 |  Shropshire

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