'Waiting for a kidney offers me relief and hope,' mother needing transplant says

'Waiting for a kidney offers me relief and hope,' mother needing transplant says

Each dialysis session takes about four hours

Forming part of the 1st Cospicua Scout Group gives mother-of-two Catherine Dato the feeling she’s doing something beneficial for others.

Forming part of the 1st Cospicua Scout Group gives mother-of-two Catherine Dato the feeling she’s doing something beneficial for others.

Eight days before Christmas day, Catherine Dato went through nephrectomy, a procedure involving the surgical removal of a kidney. She was only able to return to her husband Antonio and her two children, Massimiliano, 16, and Martina, 13, three days before Christmas.

“I know my children miss me a lot and home is the not the same for them without me,” says the heartbroken 45-year-old mother who suffers from polycystic kidney disease, a disorder through which clusters of cysts develop on the kidneys, causing them to enlarge and lose function over time.

“There are not enough words to describe my feelings as we decorated our home together a couple of days before my surgery,” says Dato, who had previously undergone another operation in preparation for dialysis.

Diagnosed at the age of 26, at the very beginning of her married life, Dato, who lives in Kalkara, considers herself extremely lucky to have her family by her side all the time.

Read: How to avoid kidney failure

“Due to this illness I experienced a series of unfortunate events in my life,” explains the young mother, who has had to quit her 12-year job as a machine operator due to unforeseen bouts of sickness which affected both her private life and work commitments.

“Polycystic kidney disease is not very common. The cysts that grow on the outside of both kidneys produce severe pain. Infections are common and there is no cure. Only painkillers can relieve the pain. The disease can lead to kidney failure, as happened in my case,” says Dato who, despite her many fears, feels proud to form part of the 1st Cospicua Scout Group.

“My husband wholeheartedly supports me. He takes care of all our needs and when I’m forced to stay in bed he takes the children to school, picks them up, attends parents’ days, cooks and does the housekeeping chores.”

I have learnt to appreciate my life the way it is, as I cannot escape reality

It has been an arduous journey so far and the couple’s life plans have turned topsy-turvy and been put on hold, as there is no forecast to Dato’s sickness. Pain and infection tend to crop up from time to time and without warning.

“I cannot remember a single season during which I wasn’t sick. I was admitted to hospital several times but, thanks to the staff and doctors, I have always recovered. However, these situations create a deep instability at home because of my lack of presence. My husband always strives hard to keep up with the pressure, while my elder sister is of great help too, especially when I have to visit hospital. She takes good care of me both during and after my hospital stays.”

Dato visits the Renal Unit at Mater Dei Hospital every three days for her dialysis, with each session taking about four hours. Dialysis is the process through which a complete blood cleansing is carried out while the patient usually sits waiting for a machine to do the work of the failed kidneys. 

“Sometimes I feel very tired after the treatment and need to rest. It’s tough, as the next day it’s back to the normal routine of having to keep up with the house and caring for my children.”

An avid dog lover, “when I’m feeling up to it I go for daily walks with my husband and beautiful dog Seimo,” says Dato, who is on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. Unfortunately, her husband Antonio isn’t a compatible donor.

“Waiting for a kidney transplant offers me relief and hope, although worries still linger in my mind. But I’m not anxious. I am living day by day.”

As expected, this whole situation has affected family planning in the couple’s lives. “We can never plan a holiday not only abroad but even in Malta, as we never know what my health situation will be like. Even a simple outing with friends can turn bitter. It’s not the first time we had to postpone or cancel an activity due to my unexpected sickness.” 

Today Thursday, World Kidney Day, like many other kidney patients, Dato will be undergoing dialysis treatment in hospital.

“Most probably, we, the patients, will be ‘celebrating’ this day together with the formidable staff of the Renal Unit, to whom I’m so grateful,” she says.

“I have learnt to appreciate my life the way it is, as I cannot escape reality. My family gives me the strength to carry on with my life. 

“The Scout Group gives me the satisfaction that I’m doing something beneficial for others. 

“I think the best cure is to try to continue living notwithstanding the limitations. There are enough problems, so I feel there is no need to invent others that can easily be avoided.”

New psychological support for renal patients

The LifeCycle (Malta) Foundation and the Renal Unit have set up RUSH, the Renal Unit Support Health Hub. On the occasion of World Kidney Day, LifeCycle and RUSH are offering free psychological support to kidney patients, as well as to current patients receiving kidney transplants and current live donors.  

Around 300 kidney patients undergoing haemodialysis treatment or a kidney transplant will be benefiting from the new LifeCycle-RUSH psychological voucher scheme. Renal patients wishing to seek psychological therapy will be given a voucher from the Renal Unit at Mater Dei Hospital.

The voucher will entitle the patients to one free therapy session with their preferred psychologist from five listed on this scheme by the Malta Chamber of Psychologists. The vouchers will be honoured by the LifeCycle Foundation. 

“From experience, we have learnt that many renal patients are at a complete loss as to how to adapt their lives in a meaningful manner. Apart from the dedicated support they receive at the Renal Unit, they need to be mentally prepared for the life changes they encouter at the different stages of the disease,” LifeCycle founder Alan Curry said.

The Renal Unit provides dialysis treatment for about 300 patients suffering from kidney failure. It also provides transplant coordination services and support to patients and their family members.

For the past 20 years, LifeCycle has been raising money for life-saving equipment to help people suffering from kidney disease, while also advancing the awareness about organ transplants in Malta. The LifeCycle Foundation is the only NGO that supports renal patients in Malta.

Donations to the Nescafe 3 in 1 LifeCycle Challenge 2019 can be sent via SMS to 5061 7370 (€2.33); 5061 8920 (€6.99); 5061 9229 (€11.65); via a call to 5160 2020 (€10); 5170 2005 (€15); and 5180 2006 (€25); or via BOV Account No. 14814521017.

For further updates and to donate, visit www.lifecyclefoundation.com or https://www.facebook.com/LifeCycleChallenge/.

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