The power of Twitter has seen one man from Resolven receive a kidney from his friend and follower, who lives Derbyshire.
Adventure fan Jamie Bowen, 46, from Resolven saw his kidneys deteriorate following years suffering from Crohn’s disease and after completing a climb of Kilimanjaro, where he was hit with altitude sickness. Jamie was diagnosed in 2017 with kidney failure and following a successful transplant will be tackling the Kidney Wales Swansea Walk for Life in 21 July.
Jamie began his dialysis treatment in early 2018, attending Morriston Hospital in Swansea three times a week and was placed on the transplant list.
He met Geoff Crowther, 65, through Twitter in 2016, both connecting through a passion of rambling and mountaineering. Retired mountain rescuer, Geoff, invited Jamie to Derbyshire to trial wild camping, as well as the walks of the Peak District.
Jamie said of his transplant journey: “I went from tackling some of the highest peaks in the world to not being able to climb my own stairs, which was incredibly disheartening and the intense dialysis treatment had a huge impact on my family life, with each treatment taking three hours each time. Thankfully the nurses and team at Morriston were fantastic and explained everything.
Geoff added: “It was a struggle to watch Jamie’s deterioration through Twitter and after more than 25 years as a mountain rescue volunteer, I am always ready to help somebody in need, so it seemed like an easy step to make to donate one of my kidneys to help Jamie. He’s one of the good guys and I know he would do the same for a friend.”
Geoff was put in with the live donor coordinator within 48 hours of making his offer to Jamie. The entire process took nine months and involved rigorous tests that included compatibility and health factors, as well as Geoff’s ongoing safety.
The transplant operation took place in February 2019 in Manchester, with Geoff’s kidney transported to UHW and Jamie has been building his strength through gentle exercise since and is back to regularly walking.
He commented on his reason to be an ambassador for Kidney Wales and its Walk for Life event: “I will never be able to repay Geoff’s kindness and I am honoured to have him as a friend. It has been a slow and steady process to rebuild my fitness since the operation, which is why I wanted to repay the support that Kidney Wales and its partners have given me during my treatment, as well as recovery.
“I am looking forward to sharing the 5k walk on 21 July, which will take along the Wales Coastal Path and the beauty of our coastline with as many people as possible. It’s about promoting the charity and its work, but also to encourage more people to be aware of the impact kidney disease – whether genetic, ill-health or because we just don’t know to look after our kidneys – and ensure that less people have to go through what I had to.”
Kidney Wales’ Walk for Life has been a calendar event for more than 30 years and is an event for all the family. It brings communities together and encourages everyone to join Kidney Wales in the great outdoors to walk and raise vital funds.
Nic Clarke, Director of Fundraising and Operations at Kidney Wales said: “We are delighted that Jamie has chosen to organise a Walk for Life event and share his journey with the world. His story shows the power of friendship, whether they live next door or hundreds of miles away and how living donation can truly change lives.”
Once he has completed his walk, Jamie hopes to compete at the British Transplant Games in Newport, where he will be representing Team Wales in a cycling time trial. While Geoff and his wife will be undertaking the 270-mile King’s Trail – Kungsleden – unsupported, in August, which will take them four weeks to complete.
For more information about Walk for Life, visit www.kidneywales.cymru/get-involved/walk-life-2019/