When Kathryn Croker, 36, was told she needed a life-saving kidney transplant, her parents stepped forward for testing, hoping they’d be a match.
Luckily, both her dad, Kevin, 67, and mum, Anne, 63, were suitable donors – but it was Kevin who selflessly went ahead with the operation.
The donation was a success – and four years later, Kevin walked his now healthy daughter down the aisle.
Kathryn said: ‘We’ve always been close and had a special bond – now I have his kidney and we feel even closer.’
Kathryn, from Northamptonshire, was diagnosed with Henoch Schonlein Purpura (HSP) – a condition affecting the blood vessels that can lead to kidney complications – aged just 12.
She explained: ‘I had a rash appear on my legs that left me with red pin pricks. When you pressed it, it didn’t go, we thought it was insect bites.
‘We went to the doctors, and they got out a book to show my mum they thought it was HSP and they told us to go to Kettering General Hospital.’
After going to the hospital, Kathryn was initially told she should be feeling better in six weeks.
‘At that age, six weeks felt like forever. I wasn’t able to go into school and it affected my whole body,’ she said.
‘I was bed bound for eight weeks and I couldn’t get out of bed – it was so painful to walk.
‘More time passed, and I wasn’t getting any better. I had severe stomach pains, and it caused my legs and feet to swell.’
At the end of January 1999, Kathryn underwent blood tests. The tests showed her kidneys had failed, and she was rushed to Great Ormond Street Hospital, London, in an ambulance.
She said: ‘It was really scary – I had so many different treatments. I had dialysis and plasma exchange.
‘After two and a half weeks I was discharged, and I was very lucky to leave the hospital with 40% kidney function.
‘Everyone was amazed – I was due to be on dialysis indefinitely and I had to go back three times a week.’
Kathryn went back to leading a normal life and after finishing school, went on to university.
But in 2011, aged 24, Kathryn’s health started to deteriorate again – she was exhausted and had to reduce her working hours as a children’s centre worker.
Kathryn said: ‘I would sleep for 13-14 hours a night and wake up and still be tired, it was hard to function.
‘During 2012, I had constant chest infections and was in hospital with kidney infections and pneumonia.’
In February 2013 her kidney function dropped to a staggering 4% and with her life was in danger, she was put on emergency dialysis, and told she needed a kidney transplant.
Her parents, Kevin and Anne, were soon tested to see if they could donate their kidneys and they were both a match.
Kathryn added: ‘It was amazing they were both a match, but we thought it would be down to the hospital to choose.
‘It was a tough decision to have to make.
“‘I don’t know why, but I always thought my mum would be the one to donate her kidney. But my dad really wanted to do it and he never moaned about it.
‘All the way through he told me not to worry but it was a surreal situation.’
In May 2013, Kevin gave his daughter the gift of life through his left kidney.
She said: ‘I remember being wheeled back onto the transplant ward and seeing my dad in the first bay on the right and the nurse said, “Your dad’s in there.”
‘They stopped me outside of the bay and he gave me a nice wave – it was such a lovely moment.’
Thankfully, Kathryn made a swift recovery, and just four years later, Kevin walked his daughter down the aisle in a moving ceremony to wed her partner, Luke.
It’s a day that Kathryn says ‘wouldn’t have happened’ if not for her dad’s decision to donate his kidney.
Kathryn added: ‘It was really emotional. We got to the door of the church and dad turned to look at me and said, “I think someone is going to cry”.
‘He gave a speech and there were a lot of happy tears – he spoke about me growing up and everyone there knew what we had been through.
‘Now I sign Father’s Day and birthday cards from “Kathryn, Luke and your left kidney”.’
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