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The gift of life: one woman’s battle against the odds

Tuesday 12 October in Community

The NHS estimates that there are around 7,000 men, women and children on the UK organ transplant waiting list, with hundreds of people sadly dying each year while waiting. A life-saving organ donation has allowed one Manx resident to continue living a life she loves. Anita Quayle was only seventeen when she was diagnosed with kidney failure. Now aged 44, her life is completely different - this is her story.

A perilous journey…

A young woman with a debilitating chronic condition, Anita spent much of her life travelling to Noble’s Hospital for treatment with three dialysis sessions needed every week for two years. There she would be hooked up to a dialysis machine to have her blood cleaned – a process which could take up to four hours with every visit. Though she was fortunate enough to have a dialysis unit close near her hometown of Ramsey, Anita explained how the procedure left her feeling exhausted.

“My blood pressure would drop, the room would start spinning and I wouldn’t be able to move. When I started dialysis I was already living on my own which made it even more difficult. Not having any additional support in the household meant I wouldn’t be able to do the normal things people could do, such as making dinner. The next day, I would still be recovering and then the following day I would be back on dialysis. I was constantly playing catch up. Friends got to the point where they stopped asking me to things because they already knew the answer would be no. I felt like death most days,” she admitted.

…the not-so-nice consequences

The grueling regime took its toll on Anita’s work and social life.

“Even though I was only on dialysis for two years (which is quite short term), it was a struggle. I got to the point where I couldn’t do it anymore. The treatment wears you down, emotionally, physically and mentally. It makes you think what is the point to this life? I felt like a prisoner.”

In her earlier career Anita’s passion was dog training, and she took part in a range of show and obedience competitions. However, her worsening health condition meant this was no longer possible.

“It was quite difficult”, she explained, “I had to rely on people to take my dogs out for me and drop them at daycare while I was receiving my dialysis treatment.”

She went on to describe how the treatment is something many patients have to live with unless they are lucky enough to get a transplant.

“Some people don’t even qualify for a transplant and have to spend the rest of their life repeating the treatment, until sadly, they pass away. You come to terms with your own mortality very quickly because there is no guarantee of a transplant.”

A new lifeline…

Following a near-death experience when her kidney function plummeted to its lowest at 5%, Anita registered on an organ donation waiting list.

“It was the only choice I had,” she said “No one in my family could offer me an organ transplant.”

On the 3rd January 2019, a 5am phone call from the Royal Liverpool University Hospital confirming an organ match had been found, would change Anita’s life forever.

“Even though you may get the call like I did, it doesn’t always mean you are going to get that organ,” she warned. “Sometimes they call two or three people who are a similar match to the person who donated the organ, and the individual who is most closely matched will receive it. Other times you can arrive and the organ is not viable.”

A second chance to live

Fortunately the kidney was a match and following her surgery Anita returned home, though it would take her another year to recover. Speaking to Islandlife almost two years after her transplant, the news is still sinking in.

“To have received my transplant and get back my freedom is a feeling like no other. When I found out that the lady I got my kidney from wasn’t actually on the organ donation register list I didn’t have the words to express my gratitude. Her family made the decision in that moment to donate her organs,” she revealed. “There are no words to describe what it means to be given that new lease of life. I am a lot healthier in myself than I have been for a very long time. My donor was a mother, a wife, and I am eternally grateful to her family for agreeing to donate their loved one’s organs.”

Anita’s story is one of resilience, how one gesture can help the life of another.

Donors are always needed, and Manx charity Organ Donation Isle of Man was set up to educate people on organ donation, share real stories, encourage people to think about donating their organs and offer support to local people on the waiting transplant list.

If you would like to find out further information about organ donation please visit Organ Donation Isle of Man – Registered Charity Number: 1262 (organdonationiom.com).

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