Our #TransplantTuesday recipient is Lara Curtin, 47 years old from Somerset West in the Western Cape.
1. Which organ did you receive, and in what year?
I received a kidney in February 2015.
2. How long were you on the waiting list for your organ?
I never had to go onto the waiting list as I received the organ from a living donor, my brother
Gareth who is 2 years younger than me and lives in Perth, Australia.
3. What was life like before the transplant? How did you spend your days?
I have an autoimmune disease called IGA Nephropathy. It took almost 11 years for my kidney function to deteriorate to a level where a transplant was needed in order to improve my quality of life and prevent me from needing dialysis. I therefore had a pre-emptive transplant. I was about 6 months away from needing dialysis. I generally had a relatively ok lifestyle; however, I did not know how sick I really felt until I had the transplant. I realised after the operation that I had a lot of nausea, tiredness, terrible muscle cramps that prevented a good night’s rest and a yellowing skin tone with white nails. I convinced myself that all these symptoms were kind of normal and I should just ‘suck it up buttercup’!
4. Describe the emotions experienced when the transplant team advised you that your donor is a match?
It took almost a year for mine and my brother’s workup to be finalised. We also had to ensure that the transplant took place when my brother was able to come to Cape Town and leave his family behind in Australia. This was no easy task as he needed to stay in Cape Town for 6 weeks before he could safely fly home. He also was unable to receive any international medical insurance cover which made matters extremely stressful. Finally, a date was set the 17 February 2015. I wore a mixed bag of emotions anxiety, fear, excitement and a guarded feeling of happiness. I constantly worried about my brother as he was not a patient and was going to put himself through surgery despite being 100 percent well. He was scared too but elated to be giving me a second chance to live life to the full as a mom and wife.
5. What is life like now, after the transplant?
The joy of receiving a healthy kidney where we were a 100 percent match is very hard to put into words. It is nothing short of a miracle and I will never take it for granted. Health is absolutely everything and when you had been given it back it is incredible. To wake up every day feeling energetic with a good appetite and ready to face the world, is beautiful. Every day I do all that is within my control to stay healthy and keep my transplanted kidney whom I call “Klaus” safe. I can now run 5km 3 to 4 times a week, work, ‘uber’ my teenagers around and still have enough energy to enjoy all that life has to offer. I am immensely grateful to my brother Gareth, my incredible nephrologist, the very talented transplant team at Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital and my amazing family.
6. What advice would you give patients on the waiting list?
Try to stay mentally well by practicing mindfulness and anything else that helps you to stay focused on the now. The hurry up and wait is horrible, acknowledge that. You don’t always have to be brave. Ride the wave of all your feelings all the time, they exactly as they are supposed to be. Reach out for physical and emotional support. Asking for help is a strength! Listen to everything your medical team says, they know best. Don’t ever be afraid to ask the team any questions or for assistance to keep you in your best health. Treat yourself regularly and be kind to yourself always. You have got this!
7. Why do you think there is a shortage of donors in South Africa?
I believe that there is a shortage due to religion, the law around organ donation – your family still has the final say despite your wishes and a misunderstanding due to lack of knowledge.
8. If you could describe transplant in one word, what would it be?