‘I had two-and-a-half year wait for a kidney’
A LOCAL woman feels ‘lucky to be alive’ after receiving a kidney transplant following a two-and-a-half year wait.
Afifah Bacchus-Rouillard was told in 1969 that her polycystic kidney disease would mean eventually she would need a transplant.
It was not until 2014 that the illness finally damaged the kidney so much that a new one was needed.
She has told of her experience as Health & Social Care launches a consultation on proposals for an opt-out organ donation scheme, aimed at increasing the number of islanders on the register.
Mrs Bacchus-Rouillard said her donor had given her the gift of life.
After being diagnosed, she said she had almost forgotten about the condition because she did not have any side-effects from it.
‘I ate, and drank, and worked, and played, and just got on with life,’ she said.
‘My urologist over here, Mr Byrom, had been keeping an eye on me and it was 2014 when he said: “We’re going to have to see the guys at Guy’s Hospital because you’re going to need a transplant”.
‘I asked what we could do to stop it and he said there was nothing because this is the way the disease works. My kidney function went down and down.’
It was frustrating because she believed in looking after her health.
‘I was brought up looking after my health because you couldn’t afford to go and see doctors back home in South America.’
Doctors told the Guyana-born islander there would be a wait of three to three-and-a-half years for a new kidney to be found that would be compatible with her body.
‘It’s a really strange feeling knowing you need that kidney, but you also need to wait for someone to die,’ she said.
‘People would ask me if I’d had my operation yet and I’d say: “No, unfortunately I have to wait for someone to die to get a kidney”. It’s a very strange mindset.’
Fortunately for Mrs Bacchus-Rouillard, the wait was less than the predicted three-and-a-half years – a suitable organ was found in just two-and-a-half years.
‘At half-past-six on 6 July, I had a phone call from a doctor who said his name so fast down the phone that I only caught a bit of it,’ she recalled.
‘He said to me: “We have a kidney for you, how fast can you get here?” and I said to him that I didn’t know how quick I could get there.’
Following a quick dash up to the airport, she was on the 8.30am flight to Gatwick – which in itself was a close call because their taxi was late.
‘We were in the taxi and I was saying to the driver “we can’t miss that flight, we have to make it to the airport, I’ve got to be at Guy’s Hospital”.
‘I rang the airport to tell them that we would be there in 10 minutes while the driver broke his neck to get us there on time.’
Mrs Bacchus-Rouillard arrived at the hospital at around 11am, but did not go down in to theatre until 10 that evening.
‘We waited all day and I was sitting there feeling excited and nervous – once I got down to theatre that was it, I was out. Before the anaesthetist told me to count, I was out.’
Her surgery was over in five hours, far less than the 10 usually required to exchange a kidney in a human body.
Mrs Bacchus-Rouillard is now on the mend following her transplant, however that did not stop some final complications in the weeks following the major surgery.
‘To start with, when they transplanted the kidney, it was working. In the theatre and the recovery room it was working and when I was in the recovery ward it was working, but then it went to sleep,’ she said.
‘Apparently this can be usual, but mine went to sleep for two-and-a-half weeks. They had to take a biopsy each week to make sure the kidney hadn’t been rejected.
‘The biopsy results were good and, once the kidney started working again, they discharged me from the ward to accommodation at St Thomas’s Hospital where they have a patient hotel.’
While she was convalescing there, she contracted chicken pox.
‘It put me back in the hospital for another eight days – in quarantine. It was the most horrible thing to have, but once I got over that and got back to the accommodation I was feeling better.
‘I was very tired all the time, of course, but I wasn’t feeling totally drained like when I had dialysis.’
During her continuing recovery, one thing Mrs Bacchus-Rouillard would like to do is write a letter to thank the family of the woman whose kidney she received.
‘This lady saw it in her power to donate her kidneys – whether it was just a kidney or more organs.
‘I should write a letter to the liaison and he can see if the family want to read it because she gave me the gift of life.’