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Queen’s Hospital nurse explains what life is like waiting for a kidney transplant

PUBLISHED: 07:00 16 March 2020 | UPDATED: 08:33 16 March 2020

Leann Defriend hasn't let her hereditary kidney disease stop her doing anything, she's travelled extensively and has become a senior sister at Romford's Queen's Hospital. Picture: Leann Defriend

Leann Defriend hasn't let her hereditary kidney disease stop her doing anything, she's travelled extensively and has become a senior sister at Romford's Queen's Hospital. Picture: Leann Defriend

Leann Defriend

A nurse from Romford’s Queen’s Hospital has shared her experience of life waiting on the organ donation list.

Diagnosed at age 18, she's now been on the waiting list for 14 months. Picture: Leann DefriendDiagnosed at age 18, she's now been on the waiting list for 14 months. Picture: Leann Defriend

At 18, Leann Defriend started experiencing heart palpitations and shortness of breath. After a blood test, it was revealed that she had a hereditary kidney disease.

Leann's dad was being treated for a similar condition at The Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel, where he was lucky enough to receive a kidney transplant. With it, came a new lease of life, 'completely changing him for the better'.

Now 13 years later, Leann is awaiting a transplant and through living with the disease, has suffered anaemia and gout.

'Over the last few years it has pretty much controlled my life. It has affected multiple joints and tendons through no being able to control the uric acid with medication.

'Last year I was nearly broken from the gout as it got so bad. I didn't know where to turn and I ended up in hospital on two occasions with one of them being when I was at my lowest. I couldn't even move or stand because of the pain, it just felt like it was in every part of my body.'

Despite the obstacles, she has still managed to progress in her career and is a senior sister in Queen's Hospital emergency department.

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'I've tried not to let it stop me doing anything even though it has put a stop to a couple of jobs, one abroad and one doing cruise ship nursing,' explained Leann. 'I was also lucky enough to travel to the USA for three months and have visited 48 states in that time, which has given me amazing memories made for life.'

Feeling as if the gout had become all-consuming, and although her kidney failure was not critical at that stage, Leann was recommended to undergo dialysis, a process whereby excess water, solutes, and toxins are removed from the blood, when the kidney can't perform this role.

'Even though dialysis is life-changing, being able to stand, walk and use my arms and hands as well as not being in so much pain is far better. I'm also finally coming off steroids and starting to lose the moon face, which is great.'

Leann continues to work full time and dialyses at the satellite unit at her trust. Luckily, her employers have allowed her to work flexibly, being part time in the office and part in the hospital.

Waiting for 14 months now, due to a specific type of antibody she needs, she could be waiting a while to find a match. So far she has had two people tested who unfortunately were not a match.

'It's amazing that someone would even offer this,' she said. 'I do think how great it would be the day I receive that call as for now, I do feel like life is on hold a little.

'I want to travel to Australia and Asia, as well as eventually settling down and having a family, but for now they are just dreams until I can get a match for a transplant.

'I just need to take each day as it comes and enjoy the good days, and it's always a good excuse for a nap.'

As of May this year, the law is changing so that everyone who is eligible in the UK will be automatically enrolled to donate their organs, should they die. It is a move that could greatly help people with stories such as Leann's.

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