RUAN kidney dialysis patient, Mary Griffin was “shocked” when she was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease at the age of 57.
The mother of six, who will be on dialysis five years at the end of April, is still waiting for that all-important call for a new kidney, which would utterly transform her quality of life.
Urging people to support the annual Organ Donor Awareness Week campaign, which runs from March 29 to April 5, she also requested support for all fundraising activities undertaken by the Clare branch of the Irish Kidney Association (IKA).
Two years before Ms Griffin was officially diagnosed, she wasn’t feeling, sleeping or eating well and was complaining about discomfort in her stomach. She underwent a number of tests but they didn’t detect any stomach problems.
In October 2008, she went into hospital and was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease at St John’s Hospital, Limerick, due to getting kidney infections.
Her kidneys were functioning at 33% of their optimum levels at that stage, which was quite low.
However, she became aware of another kidney patient, whose kidney function was just 7% and they still hadn’t gone on dialysis.
Following a two-week hospital stint, she was discharged home and was brought back to Dr Casserely’s clinic for check-ups at different times.
The week before Christmas, one of her kidneys slumped from 33% to 7%. Having booked a Lourdes trip for April 8, 2009, Ms Griffin was looking forward with a sense of anticipation to this break. However, two days before her scheduled departure, she had to go back for a check-up and she was hospitalised. A line was put in for dialysis, resulting in the cancellation of her trip.
In fact, she started her dialysis on April 8 – the day she was due to leave, which was a “bitter disappointment” for her.
“When I was first told I had chronic kidney disease, it was an awful shock. It never crossed my mind. My GP knew my kidneys were not functioning properly following blood tests.
“When you go into hospital and see patients who are 17 and 18 on dialysis, you realise that I was so lucky. I got 57 good years but they had very little seen in life yet. It is upsetting to see this,” she said.
She recalled there was a 23-year-old patient on dialysis in Limerick who was studying to be a doctor. He was supposed to get a kidney from his uncle on December 4 and was over the moon.
“On his last day, we were all hugging and kissing him. He was supposed to have the operation on a Monday but they discovered antibodies in his blood on the Saturday when he went up to Dublin.
“The following Friday, they sent him home and he is still on dialysis. We cried for him. He was so excited and hopeful. Things like that are very upsetting. It is like being one family. We know each other’s names, their wives, husbands, children and where they live, how long they’ve been on dialysis.
“Dialysis turns your life upside-down,” she said.
Mary started on home dialysis but it didn’t work out for her, which resulted in the haemodialysis three times a week – every Monday, Wednesday and Friday – for four hours and 10 minutes. She said she plans her week around Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
Some days, she feels exhausted after the dialysis and has very little energy. At times, she found cooking and preparing the dinner very stressful the day after dialysis, like a day’s work. Without her husband, Kevin, who she describes as her “rock” and her family, she says she would be lost. She is very grateful for the support of her children Helena, Orla and Mairead, Pat, Kevin Junior and Gerard, the doctors, managers, sisters, nurses and staff, as well as the bus driver, Michael Meere.
Two of her daughters volunteered for tests to donate a kidney to her. While their kidneys were compatible, they would only last six months because of the antibodies in her blood.
“One side of my heart was praying they would be suitable and the other side was praying they would not,” she said.