Life-saving kidney transplant inspires Nottinghamshire student to give back

A 22-year-old student from Nottinghamshire says her life saving kidney transplant surgery at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, has influenced her studies and inspired her to help other young people.

Sophie Ashmore-Hayes was just nine year’s old when she became critically-ill while on a family holiday in Cyprus, in September 2005. Hours after arriving in the country - Sophie became extremely weak and unwell and her family decided to take her to the local hospital.

Tests revealed that Sophie’s kidneys were not functioning properly and she was transferred to a hospital in the Cyprus’ capital city that specialised in children’s intensive care.

Sophie said: “It was terrifying especially for my parents. This was our family holiday and now I was in a critical condition. On the intensive care ward there were only eight beds and we knew I was lucky to have one. The doctors acted quickly and a peritoneal dialysis line was inserted through my stomach and I was put on dialysis straight away.

“Doctor’s on the ward later told my parents it had been touch-and-go and if I had arrived on the unit just two hours later, I may not have survived.”

After 21 days of dialysis Sophie was able to travel back to the UK , remaining on dialysis during the four and a half hour flight to Gatwick airport. Sophie was then taken by ambulance to the Children’s Renal Unit at Nottingham’s City Hospital.

The student from Newark said: “I remember arriving on Lambley ward and my parents talking to the consultant about my treatment. My parents were actually due to get married in November and they planned to post-pone the wedding but the doctor on the ward was adamant that I would be able to be there for at least part of their wedding day.”

Sophie’s kidneys were functioning at between 10-20% and she would spend up to 12 hours on dialysis overnight. In the days leading up to the wedding Sophie spent 36 hours consecutively on dialysis in preparation for time spent out of hospital.

By the end of November Sophie was able to go home and come off dialysis, attending frequent checks at hospital. However she now needed a kidney transplant in order to continue to live without dialysis.

In the UK there are over 6,500 people waiting for an organ donation, with over 5,000 of these people waiting for a kidney transplant.

Sophie was on the transplant waiting list for just over a year, during which time her mum, Kate, underwent a series of tests and was found to be a donor match. The kidney transplant was finally planned in for the week before Christmas in 2006.

The 22-year-old said: “It was a surreal moment but my mum always said from the beginning that she would do all that she could to help. Now we were both going in to surgery at the same time – I remember feeling scared. Mum went into theatres that morning and I was taken down in the afternoon. It was a very strange as we were both in hospital but on different wards, so we didn’t get to see each other until days after the transplant.”

 The transplant was a success and in December last year, Sophie celebrated 12 years since having a new kidney.

 Dr Martin Christian, Consultant Paediatric Nephrologist at Nottingham Children’s Hospital, was Sophie’s lead consultant for eight years throughout her time spent on the children’s renal ward. He said: “Sophie has been through so much and still she continues to give back as a volunteer and active member of our British Transplant Games team – supporting other young people with similar transplant experiences. Sophie is the embodiment of what transplantation can do as it really can change lives. For people like Sophie transplant is a part of their life, but it is not all of it.”

 “We encourage people to register their wishes on the Organ Donor Register as it is important to inform family and friends of your wishes, to make the decision process during a very difficult time much easier.”

 In Nottingham, 25 people donate their organs each year on average providing the gift of life to others, after their death.

 Sophie added: “In the beginning when I was on dialysis and taking medication every day, I really did struggle with adapting to this life change. I didn’t know anybody else in a similar situation – it was really hard. Since my transplant over a decade ago there have been so many medical interventions – it’s phenomenal, this is what has inspired me to study biomedical science at university, to eventually go down the research route.

“I always say that physically the doctors and nurses are the ones that saved my life but mentally and emotionally the peer support from the youth service at NUH and the opportunities they have shown me has saved my life.”

It takes just two minutes to join the NHS Organ Donor Register. Register online at: www.organdonation.nhs.uk or call 0300 123 23 23.