I had dialysis all through college
College life was no party for Nehal thanks to her damaged kidneys. She tells TheSite.org about the importance of organ donation.
The usual struggles of college life are exam pressure and keeping up with friends. For me, it was trying to juggle classes with trips to the hospital for dialysis, which left me feeling knackered and sick, with horrible headaches. I couldn't even eat a banana because the potassium could cause cardiac arrest. On top of all this was knowing I'd be stuck this way until a complete stranger donated a kidney. There was nothing I could do but wait.
I was 13 when the doctors told me I had a problem with my kidneys and I started regular dialysis when I was 16. They made it very clear that until a suitable donor came along there was little else they could do about it. Dialysis gave me all kinds of nasty side effects. There were physical effects, like feeling dizzy and nauseous, and psychological problems, like feeling anxious and depressed about the high risk of infection. You can't imagine the restriction dialysis puts on your life. I couldn't really travel because I needed to be near hospital and had to be really careful about what I ate and drank.
I started college to study IT and found it so difficult to keep up with my workload. I was going to hospital three afternoons a week and was always exhausted. On the days between treatments my kidneys would fill with waste. It was impossible to enjoy college as I was never given a moment of rest.
I managed to complete the course but was too weak to continue studying. My university dreams seemed so out of reach, and the more time passed, the lower I felt about this. I was growing impatient with the donor waiting game and started to lose hope one would ever come along. Time dragged by and I didn't think I was ever going to get better. People told me to stay positive, but it was so hard.
It all changed in January 2009, when I received a phone call from the hospital asking me if I'd eaten anything that day. They'd found a suitable donor. Having been on the waiting list for so long it was quite a shock at first. So many thoughts rushed through my head; I was scared of the operation yet excited at the possibility this might all be over. That evening I had the operation.
I woke up see my family standing around my bed. The first few days are kind of a blur; I was pumped full of morphine so it's hard to piece together what happened. Despite this, I remember I had a real sense that the worst was over. The first clear memory I have is getting out of bed for the first time and feeling really uncomfortable. What a lot of people don't realise about kidney transplants is that they don't remove the old kidney; they just put the new one in front of it.
I was in a lot of pain in those first few weeks; I had to be careful how much I walked, and every time I sat up I could feel the new kidney. But there were also so many positives. My diet was no longer restricted. I went on a massive banana binge and it was so wonderful to eat the foods that I wanted.
My life has changed so much since the operation. In 2010, I finally fulfilled my dream of going to university, and I'm now in my second year of studying psychology with counselling. It's been a lot of work, but it's just amazing to be here as there was a time when I never thought I'd be able to. I can also travel more now and have visited Wales, and even Egypt.
Since my ordeal, I've been campaigning to raise awareness about organ donation. I've left leaflets in my local library, put posters up at my GP's practice, and set up stalls at various events to talk to people and get them to sign up to donate organs. At a recent event, I was able to speak to a crowd of around 400 people and tell them my story. My speech ended up getting 200 people to register as organ donors.
Organ donation is not something most young people would consider. Yet, for people who are in my situation it can make all the difference in the world. When I think about my donor, and how my life was completely transformed by them, I am so grateful. It inspires me to continue my work and to promote organ donation to the best of my ability. I hope that my story might inspire others to change the life of a stranger, just as a stranger changed mine.
If you would like more information on how to become an organ donor, please explore the links below.