A donor kidney gives patient the chance to be a mum

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Pictured above: Kristy with her 10-month-old daughter

Kristy Luong was only 14 years old when she was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease.

“I remember having a fever and then noticed some blood in my urine, but I just thought I was getting my period for the first time,” said Kristy who is now 33.

Over the next few days, the symptoms got worse – her body ached and all she wanted to do was sleep. Following the diagnosis, she was in and out of hospital, sometimes needing to be admitted overnight. Even then, Kristy said she didn’t fully grasp the seriousness of what was happening. Instead, she secretly welcomed the hospital visits as a chance to get out of school.

At 22, she was told she had end-stage kidney failure and had to go on dialysis and a transplant donor list. Kristy once again dismissed the news casually.

“I really didn’t understand the importance of kidneys. Even as the doctor explained how the dialysis treatment worked, I thought, ‘that’s ok, I’ll just need to adjust my life a little bit’,” said Kristy, who soon learned she had underestimated the impact this disease would have on her life.

She started on dialysis three days a week for up to five hours, adding it was not always something she prioritised.

“I remember skipping one of my sessions to go out with friends. My doctor called and told me that skipping dialysis would put stress on my organs and that I could have a heart attack as a result. That’s when it hit me that this was serious,” Kristy said.

There were a few quite challenging and frightening moments she experienced along the way including being admitted into ICU after fluid was found in her lungs and heart.

“I had been at a friend’s wedding and when I went home that night, I hooked myself up to the peritoneal dialysis machine. I felt something wasn’t right; I was struggling to breathe, so my mum and I went straight to the hospital where I remained for the next few weeks,” she said.

Kristy attended St Vincent’s for her haemodialysis and, later, nocturnal dialysis sessions at St Georges. She described the nurses and the renal team who cared for her as extremely supportive.

“The nurses became my ‘dialysis mums’. The conversations we had and the relationships I built with them were very special to me. I remember one nurse who was like sunshine whenever I saw her – she would just always brighten my day,” Kristy said.

“The care I received at St Vincent’s has been excellent. You can tell everyone here really puts their heart and soul into what they do for their patients.”

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Pictured above: Kristy with Allyson Manley, Post Renal Transplant Coordinator at St Vincent's Hospital Melbourne

The call that changed everything

Kristy was on her way home from work when she received a call from the renal transplant team at St Vincent’s to say that they had a donor match.

“I got on the tram and called my partner straight away and then Mum and my sisters. I was crying as I told them the news and when I hung up the phone, the people on the tram who had overheard my conversations, started congratulating me, too,” she said.

While on dialysis Kristy said she understood having children would be difficult and would put extra strain on her body. The transplant has enabled Kristy to get her life back to normal, and, to eventually start a family with her partner. The couple now have two children, a three-year-old son and a 10-month-old daughter.

“The fact that I have been able to have my children because of this transplant is so meaningful. I have been given a real gift,” she added.

Kristy had her kidney transplant performed at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne in 2016 and continues to attend the hospital for her check-ups with the post renal transplant team.