‘I live day to day in limbo’ says double kidney transplant patient

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Brendan Tate has undergone two kidney transplants, but now needs another. Catherine Scott reports.

A hospital receptionist who is waiting for a life-saving kidney transplant is urging more people to sign up to the organ donor register.

Married father-of-two Brendan Tate, who works at Bradford Royal Infirmary, part of Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, is one of 84 adults in the city who are waiting for a kidney transplant.

The 56-year-old was in his early 20s when his kidneys started failing. He was diagnosed with chronic glomerulonephritis – an infection which kills both kidneys.

“I first joined the transplant list in 1981 and had my first kidney transplant in 1983 at St James’s Hospital in Leeds. Unfortunately that transplant failed so it was back on dialysis before getting a second transplant in January 1991 which was successful until November 2016 then my transplanted kidney went into rejection following a bout of pneumonia in May 2016.

“Things have steadily deteriorated and I am now on home haemodialysis three times a week. I live day to day and am in limbo. I would urge everyone to talk to their family about their wishes – whatever they are – because if you do, they know you want to be an organ donor and are more likely to say ‘yes’ to donating your organs after your death.”

Brendan, who lives with his wife Kathy and has two sons, 27 and 23, started home haemodialysis last year. “I need dialysis three times a week to keep me alive. My life is on hold and has been for over a year now. My life has changed dramatically since I got sick again.

“Up to then, I led a fully active life while my kidney was working, despite taking immune suppressants to stop my body from rejecting my transplanted kidney.

“I knew I was getting slower but when I contacted pneumonia in May 2016 it effected my transplanted kidney and put me on the road to rejection. The dialysis machine gets rid of any impurities in my blood and drains off any excess fluid which has built up in between dialysis as I don’t pass any urine any more my kidney is so damaged.

“I’m getting tired, slower and the lack of energy is awful. I basically have no energy. I’m not allowed any more fluid than a litre a day as my kidney can’t process it anymore and I have a very restricted diet of low potassium and no salt as my kidney can’t tolerate it.

“The severe tiredness and fatigue is sometimes overwhelming. The wait for the transplant is awful –after the first kidney transplant failed in 1983, I waited 10 years. It does get you down and depressed but the kidney machine keeps me going and I learn to live my life and adjust my life accordingly.”

To find the right match, experts must match the donor’s kidney to Brendan’s tissue type and blood group.

“You just sit waiting for that phone call. Waiting for the transplant is like winning the lottery as you are waiting for the right organ that matches your tissue type and blood group. Luckily, thanks to my successful donor transplant in 1991, I have been able to see my boys grow up and they and my wife, Kathy, continue to bring me a lot of happiness and joy during some dark days. Kathy remains incredibly supportive. I don’t know how she does it. Now Kathy helps me dialysis at home and inserts the needles and looks after me fantastically well.”

Brendan began working at the BRI back in 1980. He is receptionist with the hospital’s patient experience team and can regularly be found on the main reception desk so to many he is the public face of the hospital.

This month he celebrates 38 years working for the NHS in a myriad of jobs including portering manager, assistant business planner, security manager, amongst others roles.

“I would encourage everyone to join the organ donor register because it gives someone else the gift of life, long after you have gone. I am forever grateful for the extra years I have had already – after all I wouldn’t have seen the boys grow up – hopefully, in the years to come I will get to see my grandchildren being born.”

Brendan’s renal consultant, Dr John Stoves said: “The average wait for a kidney transplant is around three years because of the shortage or organ donors in the UK.

“Regular dialysis helps to keep our patients alive, but as Brendan says it is a very demanding treatment that is best avoided for those who are fit enough to receive a kidney transplant.

“Everyone involved in the care of patients who have advanced kidney disease supports Brendan’s request for organ donation to be discussed within families and in our communities.”