Keeping hopes alive of finding a kidney donor

AT THE age of 18, Victoria Firth was juggling a busy social life with studying to be a nurse at college.

The teenager was blissfully unaware that life as she knew it was about to change for ever.

When Ms Firth first admitted to Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital with high blood pressure, medics initially put it down to a chest infection.

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But Ms Firth’s condition deteriorated rapidly, before suffering renal failure which would turn her world upside down.

Since then the 33-year-old of Gawper, Barnsley has relied on dialysis to keep her alive.

Despite being on the waiting list for a kidney transplant for more than a decade, a match has never been found.

Her mother was found to be compatible, but could not give a kidney because of a cyst on one and arteries on the other.

Ms Firth said: “I have been having dialysis four times a week for the past 11 years. I go at 7.30am and get back for 11.30am but the rest of the day is wasted anyway because you’re too tired to do anything.

“I had to give up my work because I am tired all the time. Some people wait a few months for a kidney, some wait 20 years and some never get one. It’s a lottery as it all depends on compatibility, blood groups and other things.

“On the original shift from when I started my dialysis I am the only one left. Everyone has died. It is so scary.”

On top of regular treatment, Ms Firth has endured nine spells in hospital over the past 18 months due to problems with her arteriovenous fistula, a surgically-modified blood vessel connecting an artery to a vein. She added: “The fistula I was using was not fitted properly, so I was poisoning myself.

“I was so ill, there were some days I thought about just stopping dialysis. If I did, I’d die.”

Ms Firth believes that if it were not for the support and encouragement of family and her partner Mark Dyson, also 33, she would not be here today.

Ms Firth said: “My mum has helped me not give up hope.

“If I could get a transplant I’d love to go back and do my nursing training and work with renal patients because I know how it feels.”

Mr Dyson is going through tests to establish whether he is a match for his other half.

She is sharing her story to encourage people to sign up to the donor register, or consider altruistic donation.

Ms Firth said: “Altruistic donation is an amazing thing, but there needs to be reform of the system, like opt-out. Donation is so important, there are so many lives which could be saved.”

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