A Craigavon teenager who was unexpectedly diagnosed with kidney disease in January and now urgently requires a transplant, is appealing for living donors to come forward.
Caitlin Lavery, who is 19 and a law and criminology student at the University of Ulster, had been the “most normal teenager” before her diagnosis, enjoying her student days and a busy social life.
However, at the start of January, having never previously had any health issues, she was admitted to hospital with a sore throat.
“We were expecting to be told it it was tonsillitis and just to be sent home with medication but then they took a blood sample and it came back that my kidneys were only working at 20 per cent function,” she said.
“I hadn’t shown any symptoms so it was a real shock. They said the kidneys were smaller than they were meant to be and weren’t working as well as they should be.
“But I was meant to have another two years before they would need to consider a transplant.”
However, just two weeks ago, Caitlin got a call from the hospital to say they wanted to start preparations for a kidney transplant now, as her condition has deteriorated from Stage 4 to Stage 5, also known as end-stage kidney disease.
To make matters worse, Caitlin also developed diabetes at the same time as she was diagnosed with kidney disease, although the two are not believed to be related.
“Because I am quite small for my age, they don’t want to put me on dialysis and risk me developing more problems than I already have,” she explained.
“For now, I’m on a lot of medication and I’ve had to quit my part-time job. I’m considering taking a leave of absence from university to be able to rest until the transplant.”
Although all of Caitlin’s family members – including her parents and five brothers – are being tested to see if they are matches, it will be up to three months before the results come back.
“There is still a chance they might not be a match and because with a living donor you have the most chance of success with a transplant, I just want as many people to sign up as possible to see who will match,” she added.
It takes approximately three years to receive a kidney from a deceased donor, so Caitlin believes a living donor is her best chance of leading a full and active life again.
“My life has already been completely changed no matter what happens, but to be able to get some of my life back with a new kidney would mean the world to me,” she said.
“I didn’t have any idea this could happen to me. I am exhausted – the fatigue you get from it is unbelievable. I have also developed quite bad anaemia which causes dizzy spells.”
A former pupil of Lismore Comprehensive School, Caitlin has been involved with musical theatre with Moyraverty Arts and Drama Society (MADS), and although she managed to perform in Grease in April, it was “quite a struggle”.
Anyone interested in registering to become a living donor can do so by contacting Donate Life on 028 9504 3079 or 028 9504 3872 or logging onto the website at www.donatelife.co.uk.