‘I’m alive because someone else died’

Dina Popat explains how a kidney transplant saved her life

Posted: 17.06.13

At the age of 32 I was the happiest anyone would be, pregnant with my first child. Just like all other mums-to-be I was excited about the new adventure ahead…but life had other plans for me. During my pregnancy it was detected that I had a problem with my kidneys, however due to being pregnant I couldn’t have any tests so while other women were feeling nervous and excited, I was nervous about another reason. 
 


After the birth of my precious daughter in 2005, I had a biopsy which diagnosed that I had Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), another name for kidney failure. What should have been the happiest occasion of my life, turned sour and I didn’t know what to do. 
 


The first three years of being a mum was a struggle. I tried to smile, play and laugh so that my daughter didn’t sense there was anything wrong but in reality, things were getting worse. I was in constant pain and at times, it was so painful that I just wished I could sleep forever and never wake up.  
 
here wasn’t a lot the doctors could do. I was given tablets to slow down the process of my condition but my kidney function had reduced to 20% and the falling was continuing. I was close to giving up all hope and was accepting my fate; that I was going to die. 
 


In April 2010 they put me on dialysis I would go to three times a week and my sessions would last around for about four hours. Dialysis is a life support machine for individuals who suffer from kidney failure. The whole process of dialysis is a bit like going inside a tumble dryer or washing machine. They fit a tube in your arm or chest, which takes out the blood, cleans it and puts the blood back into the body. After dialysis I use to feel so tired that I would need one full day to recover.
 


My only option was to have a kidney transplant, but I was told my chances were low – there was a 1 in 5000 change that I could have one as I have one of the second rarest blood groups (AB positive). I had no choice but to live like every day was my last. 
 Then one day, after being on dialysis for eight months I received a phone call that changed my life forever.

At 1am on December 14th, 2010 Hammersmith Hospital called to say there was a kidney waiting for me; it had been donated by the family of a 35-year-old man.  
I could not believe my luck, I was being given a second chance at life; but at the same time, it was the heaviest decision I’ve ever had to make.

It turned out that the kidney in question had been turned down by two people before me as it was from someone who had passed away due to having a brain tumour. This meant that there was a 1 in 13,000 chance that I would get a brain tumour too. I had to make a decision and I had to make it quickly. Transplants are normally done within 12- 24 hours but this one had been out of ice for over 48 hours.

After talking to my best friend Marc, I decided that this could be my only chance, so I accepted the transplant. 
 
The doctors described me as a miracle. Within two hours of the transplant the kidney started pumping blood. It had worked, immediately. Within five days I was sent home and recovered fully. 
Two and a half years later my kidney is functioning at 50%, and so far at all my two-month check ups I have been getting the all clear. 
 


The transplant has given me a newfound energy – it’s like starting my life all over again. During my illness I wasn’t allowed to eat spicy or salted food, everything I ate was bland, so it was amazing to embrace flavours again.  
 

Last year in December I went to India with my daughter after 12 years. I felt like I needed to give something back and do something for others. I am physically disabled as I had polio as a child, and I felt I wanted to help other disabled people in India who didn’t have the opportunities and healthcare that I had received in the UK. 
 
I decided to hand out blankets, wheelchairs and walking sticks to people who are living in slums or on the street. I felt an obligation to help people – people take their lives for granted until they go through an experience like mine and then you realise it’s so precious as it can be taken away from you at any moment. 


 
Later this year, I am also planning a charity event for the Imperial Kidney Fund, which supports 13 hospitals in West London. As well as raising vital money for a good cause I would like to raise awareness of kidney diseases. 
 


12 years ago my mother died of the same illness; she was not as fortunate as me - she was in the same situation as me; we were both from the same rare blood group so had the same chances of finding a transplant. 
 
I’m now 40 and I’m so grateful that I was able to celebrate the occasion with my nearest and dearest and that they were celebrating my birthday and not mourning my funeral.

My focus now is to live my life to the full and focus all my attention on my daughter; I’m just so glad that I am here to watch her grow up. 
 

Show your support for Dina by attending the special charity fundraising dinner she has organised for September.

Charity Ball and Gala Dinner
To raise fund for The Imperial Kidney Fund
Saturday 7th September 2013-06-17 C&L Country Club, West End Road, Northolt, UB5 6RD
Tickets: £30
To book call Dina on 07934 617 000 or email dinapopat2@aol.com
 

Interview by Navpreet Grewal

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