‘Kidney disease changed my life’

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Tomorrow is World Kidney Day. 
Catherine Scott meets one young woman whose life has been changed by kidney disease.

Fredericka Scanlon was 19 when she was diagnosed with kidney disease.

She was studying to be a paramedic at Teeside University but her diagnosis changed all that.

“I was diagnosed with incurable kidney disease aged 19, which was a huge blow,” explains Fredericka, now 23, from Sheffield.

“It was a life-changing moment, as I had to rethink my everything and re-plan my career path and lifestyle.”

While at university she was one of only six selected from around 200 students to take part in a two-week placement with the Great North Air Ambulance in Penrith.

She was working with the air ambulance team with doctors and paramedics during the Cumbrian floods in December 2015.

But kidney disease dashed her plans for becoming a paramedic.

“It began as back pain,” she explains.

“I suffered from it for a number of years on an off, but it was put down to the fact that I was over-weight. When I turned 18 I started hitting the town on nights out with my friends, but started to suffer with very bad hangovers.

“One night I realised it was more than a hangover; I wasn’t able to pass water.

“I called 111 and was taken to the Northern General Hospital, where they found I had a 2.5 cm stone blocking my whole kidney.”

She was admitted to the Hallamshire Hospital straight away and was there for three weeks for treatment to blast the stone and manage the pain.

But it was to no avail, so doctors had to remove the stones under general anaesthetic.

“This was just the start of the journey for me, though,” continues Fredericka.

“The kidney stones kept occurring at a rapid rate. After around 18 months of treatments and ongoing tests I was diagnosed with Cystinuria, an inherited disease which stops the breakdown of amino acids, causing stones to constantly occur in my bladder and kidneys.”

There is no cure available for the condition, just medications and treatments, aimed at keeping the disease under control.

But Fredericka has struggled with the medication, which does not agree with her.

“I don’t require dialysis or a kidney transplant as the disease is autoimmune-related, so it would just reoccur.”

She is still under ongoing investigations and treatments at the Hallamshire Hospital and the Sheffield Stone Institute and will require genetic treatments later in life. “Currently I manage the condition by water intake. I have to drink around 3-5 litres of water/fluids per day, which can be quite difficult.

“It doesn’t usually affect my day- to-day life, however I do experience flare-ups. Getting a cold can be very debilitating if I become dehydrated. I currently have five kidney stones which have been sitting there for a couple of years now.

Fredericka is now 23 and has found another career to throw herself into – she works in Sales and Marketing for the luxury student accommodation brand LIVStudent, who are building sites on Ecclesall Road and West Bar.

“My whole job working life has revolved around talking/caring for people. The ever-changing succession of students I meet – I love it,” she says.

“I enjoy building up relationships with students, and the fact that I am a part of a student’s journey while at university.

“I’ve had mums and dads contact me telling me their child has spoken positively about me, told them about something interesting we’ve done on site etc; that gives me great job satisfaction.”

She has also suceeded in losing five stone.

“I joined Slimming World in December 2016 and hit my target of losing five stone in June 2018 – an 18-month journey. I’ve never felt better. It has changed my life.

“I think I used my kidney condition to eat more and blame my size on something other than the fact that I was eating too much.

“I had always carried more weight than I should have. However the puppy fat never left and I struggled with my weight from the age of 14.

“While working in the ambulance service my eating habits went haywire and I ate anything and everything available to me when on shift. I had tried many ‘diets’ in my life with no luck, but joining Slimming World truly changed my life. It’s a complete lifestyle change. I didn’t stop myself from eating what I wanted as I knew this weightloss had to be sustainable.”