Paul's story

I had hardly ever been to the doctor and never been admitted to hospital, so when in my mid 20’s I had some blood tests done which showed my kidneys were not functioning as they should, it was a  wake up call that my life from that point on would very much revolve around hospital visits and medical personnel.

Many tests were to follow with all manner of medical machines and devices that scanned me, prodded me and even turned me upside down! The outcome was that they told me I had chronic kidney failure and that one day, many years in the future, I would eventually need to go on dialysis.

I took all this in my stride and never once got depressed over it and never really thought about the future. I simply got on with life. The only reminders were the six monthly check-ups at the hospital. I came and went with a positive attitude and it never got me down.

Many years later on a bright summer’s day, I walked into my regular hospital visit as I had done many many times over the past 12 years or so. I recall the young lady doctor saying in response to my question; “Oh dialysis is a long way off yet” and left thinking yes, when I am over 60… Very quickly after that visit I started feeling very tired every afternoon and almost every day I started taking a nap. When I took as long to climb the stairs as my 70 year old parents and was breathless at the top, I knew something was wrong. Sure enough, at my next hospital visit I was told I was in end–stage kidney failure. Without treatment I could be dead within months.

Shortly after that In July of that year I had a catheter surgically implanted in my stomach lining and went onto a dialysis regime that required me to dialyze four times a day, every day! Again, although I did not wish this in my life, I took to it pragmatically and got on with life.

I went to work, and dialyzed; I went camping, swimming, family days out, and dialyzed; stayed overnight away from home, and dialyzed; and even a trip to Australia for two weeks, and dialyzed. I was not going to let my life be seriously changed because of my chronic condition. When I started on the dialysis I was also placed on the transplant waiting list. At least five years they said.

Exactly one year to the week in July of the following year it came as an unprepared surprise to receive a phone call from the hospital at 10pm in the evening as I was about to go to bed – “We have a kidney for you, can you be at the hospital in 45 minutes!” I was in shock at the enormity of the moment. My wife took over and got me there. The details of what transpired over the next two weeks will fill a chapter or three of my memoirs, but while the rest of New Zealand was enthralled with the Olympic Games in Barcelona – I was recovering from my kidney transplant.

This was a life-changing event. I was only off work for six weeks but I should have taken at least eight. I felt so good I was determined to get back to work. The dialysis kept me alive with a sustainable level of life, but my new kidney gave me my real life back in a way that I can only describe as remarkably transforming. It was instant; when the kidney kicked in I could literally feel my body responding, getting stronger, feelings and senses I had lost came back. A wonderful simply life changing experience.  Even though it was a challenging time for my family, I appreciated the effort my wife and children put in to help me through.

That was 22 years ago and my kidney continues to work effectively and has been stable all that time. Since then, I work full time, I have travelled overseas to Europe, South America and Asia. I tramp and camp and climb mountains – well small ones. I enjoy life to the full; eating and drinking what I want responsibly and I can do almost everything any other healthy person can do, but it did come at a cost.

For all this I thank my Creator God, medical science and professionals and especially my Kidney Donor.

Paul Sommer