Statistics from Kidney Care UK indicate that in the UK approximately 3,000 kidney transplants take place every year but around 5,000 people are still waiting.  8 out of 10 people on the transplant list are waiting for a kidney – that’s why Organ Donation Week is such an important campaign for Kidney Wales!  This week we are encouraging people to make and record a decision about organ donation, and to share that with their families and friends.

Lesley Coles is a 57 year old daughter, sister, wife, mother and grandmother of three beautiful granddaughters, who received a life-saving kidney transplant in 2016.  She has had some difficult conversations with friends and family about organ donation, but they have seen first-hand the difference a transplant has made to Lesley and her family’s life.  Here is an insight into Lesley’s kidney journey…

After being ill for a number of years with unexplained kidney disease, Lesley had dialysis for 6 months, which is a relatively short period given that the average wait time for a transplant is two and a half years.  Lesley grappled with complex changes to her diet and lifestyle, to help protect her remaining kidney function while on dialysis.  Her sister was undergoing tests to donate a kidney, but out of the blue, she received a call to confirm a donor had been found.  Lesley remembers that day: “it was a very strange experience to receive the call as I was getting ready to go to work for a very important meeting.  It was a bit unreal. I felt as if it was happening to someone else.  But overwhelmingly I felt that there was hope.”

Lesley considers that kidney disease has stolen a few years of her life, affecting her family and her mental health, with the period of shielding during the pandemic proving to be a particularly difficult time.  She notes that the Welsh kidney community has been an invaluable source of mutual support: “The work Kidney Wales has done to support has been wonderful. I feel as if I have someone holding my hand. The information updates have helped to answer my family’s questions and fears – my son says of Dr Mike Stephens’ Q&A sessions ‘it is really good to hear from someone who knows their onions’!”

Lifestyle changes have been made to protect her precious kidney and today Lesley works full time for Aneurin Bevan University Health Board; she enjoys craft work, making toys and is involved in fundraising for charities.   “The transplant has given me my life back.  I can now do everything I could do before.  I can see my children grow into their adult lives, watch my grandchildren grow and see my mum, sister and nephews.  Most of the time, I can be ‘normal’!”

Lesley acknowledges the incredible support of her family throughout her kidney journey and believes that she could not have coped without the exceptional support of her healthcare team at the University Hospital of Wales, led by Dr Mike Stephens.  Lesley nominated Dr Catherine O’Leary, Clinical Psychologist, in Kidney Wales’ ‘Nominate a Hero’ campaign during the pandemic: “My hero is Dr Catherine O’Leary for saving my sanity.  Catherine has been providing essential telephone catch ups and they are so important to me at the moment.  I cannot express how thankful I am.”

Have you had the conversation?  See more information about Organ Donation in Wales.