On Wednesday, it will be two years since Tim had a kidney transplant. It seems impossible to me that so much time has passed.
If you follow me on social media you may have seen that every few months I donate blood. I always post about it when I do, and each time I love that many people message me to let me know that my posts have encouraged them to sign up to donate. You can help or save up to three people with every single pint of blood, so it’s an absolutely incredible thing to do.
This is why I do it.
Since Tim’s kidneys failed and he was lucky to receive a transplant we’ve committed that we want to raise awareness of the importance of organ and blood donation, and this week on his anniversary he will launch a beautiful initiative to encourage more people to talk about and sign up to the organ donor register.
With his tongue ever in his cheek, he’s called it The Offal Good Tea Party and we’re hoping that lots of people will be there this Wednesday when we hold the first one. It’s kind of similar to the brilliant Macmillan coffee mornings; an opportunity to get together over a cuppa and cake and, hopefully to encourage people to think about (without any pressure whatsoever, obviously) whether they might like to sign up to donate their organs when they die, or donate blood if they are able to. He’s created a website where you can find out more: http://offalgoodparty.com/
Tim has organised for the BBC online team to be there and we’re hoping that others will start to hold parties of their own so we can grow this movement and support the amazing charities that have done so much for us and so many others affected by kidney failure.
I’m writing this post to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation. But it’s also to thank those who make such a selfless and brave decision in the face of earth-shattering loss and to tell a little bit of the story of what it is truly like to love and support someone who has been through a kidney transplant.
I can’t speak for Tim, so this is purely a little insight into my side of things.
The photo at the top of this post was taken as Tim came out of recovery. The first time I saw that he had survived, having said our goodbyes to each other earlier that day.
To set my eyes on that beautiful, courageous face was one of the best moments I have ever experienced, but there’s no getting away from the fact that that day was the worst day of my life. I spent many hours that day wondering if, by the time it was over, I would be a widow.
Organ transplants are a complicated emotional minefield. They’re miraculous, humbling and life-changing for everyone – not just the person who receives one. They’re also terrifying and there’s absolutely no guarantees that they will work, so I felt that day as though we were literally pushing Tim over a cliff with no clue what was at the bottom.
We are so lucky to have an NHS with the experts able to make transplants happen, and a system that enables beautiful people to give the biggest possible gift there could be if they die: saving someone’s life.
I’ve touched upon the impact this has had on our family before in blog posts about keeping it together when everything is falling apart, and about how our family plans have changed. I feel able to write about this more now because Tim is finally starting to feel well. He has been pretty unlucky and had more complications than many others experience after a transplant, but finally it seems as though he’s going to be able to start to move on. His spark, which was dulled to the point of being extinguished is back.
Of course, no-one should, but Tim shouldn’t have got ill. He was so healthy, respected his body and cared about himself and his health. It came as a massive shock to us all when we found out around the time Xav was born that his kidneys were failing.
I felt so helpless. I tried to do everything I could think of to research ways to help him and things we could do to support his doctors. We kept him as well as we possibly could using natural supplements and desperately trying to cling on to our relentless positivity in the face of ever-worsening results.
When it became clear he was edging towards the need for a replacement kidney, many of our friends and family got tested. It was one of the most humbling and complex times of our lives, the kind of time when your army shows up for you, to soften all the blows. I hope I have the chance to do the same for them, so I can show them what an impact they have had.
The day of the transplant happened very suddenly in the end, and Tim was lucky to receive a kidney from a deceased donor. We know very little about them and would love to have the opportunity to one day meet them and show them the difference that their amazing decision has made – not just to Tim but to everyone who loves him.
I have never been able to allow myself to contemplate what life would be like had things been different. Instead I choose to focus on enjoying this life that is so precious, colourful and fun.
Our lives are irrevocably different now. It might sound mad, but I wouldn’t change it.
I like who I am now, more so than at any other point in my life. I know that when I need to be, I can be stronger than I could have imagined. I’m fiercely proud of how we have helped each other through it all, and of all the positive things we’ve taken from it rather than letting it rob us of even more than it already has. I love that trivial stuff doesn’t get a look-in. I’m free of sweating the small stuff and I think I’ve got much better at spending my time on stuff that really matters. Obviously I wish we hadn’t had to go through all of this, but it has given us so much – far more than it has taken.
On the day of Tim’s transplant, we said our goodbyes. It wasn’t like you might imagine, with us both talking at a million miles an hour, trying to say everything we needed to….just in case. It wasn’t anything like that.
We both felt pretty peaceful, because we knew everything we needed to know. We’ve been through plenty of tough stuff before, and that’s taught us to try to live showing each other all the important stuff always. On that day we both found out that building our relationship that way has been the right way.
This week we will mark two years since that day, and use everything that it has taught us to try to show as many people as we can how important it is to have the conversation with yourself and with those you love about donating your organs.
Because of organ donation, Xav has his Daddy back. And I can sit here with happy tears rolling down my cheeks thinking of all the days we have spent together and will spend together, thanks to the courage and generosity of Tim’s donor’s family and the heroes of our NHS.
To find out more about becoming an organ donor, visit: https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/about-donation/
For information about giving blood, visit: https://www.blood.co.uk/