Last week I had my second round of tests to check my suitability as a kidney donor. The first round had been some simple blood tests and a chat with the transplant nurse back when I put myself forward to check my blood and tissue types, but this next round really stepped things up. Here’s how my day went:
08:00. Arrived at the Medical Investigation Unit (MIU) at St Heliers. I was weighed; my height measured and blood pressure checked and an initial blood sample taken before the main part of the test commenced. This involved an “contrast agent” called Iohexol being administered via a cannula. I have fortunately never needed to have a cannula before so today was the today I discovered the veins in my arm are shy so mine was fitted to the back of my hand. It wasn’t in for long as first the Iohexol was administered and then the line flushed through. After a short wait back in the waiting room to make sure there was no adverse reaction, I was free to go for the rest of my tests.
09:30. Over to the renal unit to see the Counselor. This was a one to one chat so she could understand my reasons for wanting to donate; make sure I felt supported and that at any time I could change my mind and that was OK. The main purpose of the chat is to make sure the donor is not being coerced or paid to donate and I think I made it clear I was doing this for all the right reasons. (not money!)
10:20. I headed over the the ECG clinic. There was quite a queue here and as time ticked by I knew I would not be back in time to the MIU for my next timed blood test. A quick word with the receptionist and she assured me it was fine to head on over to my other appointment and then come back when I was ready.
10:50. Back in MIU, a second cannula fitted to my other arm. Once again, shy veins in my arm meant I had to have it in the back of my hand. I really felt this one go in, but once in and taped down I got used to it. Two lots of blood taken and I was done.
11:00. Out of MIU and over to Ultrasound. A quick squidge of cold gel, some prodding around my tummy with the ultrasound probe and I am declared “Normal”. This is good news on many levels, the main one being it means I have two kidneys – one for me and one spare, hurrah!
11:30. Across the hall from Ultrasound was the X-Ray dept where I went next for a chest x-ray. Another nice quick and simple procedure with minimal waiting. The trickiest part was getting the gown on and off – you’d think they would have come up with something better than all those little ties by now?!
11:45. Back over to MIU for my next timed blood test. The cannula works well and the two vials of blood are taken in no time. One more test left…
11:50. Back in ECG and this time no queue and I’m seen very quickly. Some sensors are attached to my skin and the test begins. On the screen I can see my heart beating away and after a few minutes it’s all done. The test looks “normal” but will need full analysis along with all my other results. I found it amusing that as advanced as the machine was, it sill produced a paper output that I had to walk over to the Renal Unit on the other side of the hospital, but it helped kill some time.
12:40. Back in the MIU for the final blood sample to be taken to complete the five hour Iohexol test that will be the true indicator of my suitability.
Kidney function is measured as GFR and normal for a female adult is between 120 and 90 with 99 being average. If mine is below 90, then they will not allow me to donate. Hopefully, this will be another test where I will be “normal”… time will tell.
And that was the end of the day. I fully expected to have lots of time waiting around, getting lost, being told I was in the wrong place/wrong time, but it all went like clock work. I cannot praise the NHS staff enough. I felt well looked after and valued – it really is a world class service when working well.