Kidney transplant mum endorses IKA early detection strategy

by Rose Barrett
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Dublin mother of two, Lisa Fitzpatrick joined the Irish Kidney Association (IKA) before an Oireachtas briefing last week at Leinster House.

A kidney transplant recipient, Lisa addressed Dáil members and leading health professionals and drove home the IKA’s key recommendations. Hosted by Fine Gael spokesperson for Health, Deputy Colm Burke, the IKA sought to highlight the challenges faced by patients of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) in Ireland and the need for immediate action. 

Early intervention, maintains the IKA, as well as transplantation, is essential to improving the lives of CKD patients and can lead to direct savings in both healthcare and legal costs. The Association encouraged politicians to support its five recommendations for managing the progression of CKD in Ireland. During the event there was an opportunity for TDs and Senators to get their blood pressure (a key indicator for CKD) tested, to demonstrate the importance of early detection for prevention and management of the disease, in practice.  

Lisa’s case study was presented and who better than the Kiltupper mother from Dublin 24 to discuss her experience, and the need for screening and early detection.

Four weeks before the delivery date of her first born, a son, Lisa was diagnosed with preeclampsia, a serious blood pressure condition that develops during pregnancy. Lisa was unaware of any kidney issues but her son was delivered three weeks early during an emergency delivery. Lisa found the experience very traumatic especially as she was under anaesthetic for the birth. 

“After that, I was introduced to nephrology team in Vincent’s Hospital. I had annual visits to the nephrology clinic and went on medication for blood pressure. My condition was managed and maintained. That was 12 years ago when it wasn’t common for young people to have kidney issues.”

Former dialysis patient Lisa Fitzgerald who is now a kidney transplant recipient during an Oireachtas Briefing Session which highlighted Key Recommendations By The Irish Kidney Association To Improve Lives Affected By Chronic Kidney Disease at Leinster House, Dublin.

In November 2017, Lisa gave birth to a second child, a daughter. “The risks had been outlined to me and the medical team were very supportive. My daughter was safely delivered but it was a very risky pregnancy.  In January 2018, I was told my kidneys were not functioning and I’d end up on kidney dialysis by the end of the year. 

“I was so sick, constantly feeling fatigued, no appetite, and the weight fell off me. It wasn’t easy, with a six-year-old and a new baby to care for. Next a peritoneal line for dialysis was administered, and I went on the transplant list. Following extensive tests and dialysis which puts awful strain on the body, I was called for a kidney transplant. I was so lucky, only four months on the waiting list and I underwent a kidney transplant in February 2019.”

Lisa’s surgery was very straight-forward and she was grateful for the gift of life she received. “It was life-changing for me, I could be a mum to my children. I was given a new lease of life and I’m living a healthy life now.”

But Lisa stressed had she known about her kidney disease at a younger age, had she been screened and made aware of her condition, she may have made  different life choices.

“I’d have made simple changes, endorsed a healthier diet and lifestyle choices.  I was in a life and death situation after the birth of my second child – my children could have been left without a mother. I’d like to encourage people to have a conversation about organ donation – see”

The IKA’s five main recommendations for action by policymakers are:  

1.      Embed screening for and treatment of Chronic Kidney Disease including conservative care in all chronic disease programmes. 

2.      Enhance a transitional service for teenagers moving to adult services.  

3.      Deliver protected theatre and bed space for organ donation and transplantation. 

4.      Provide for timely completion of required health, vaccination, and dental work, ahead of transplant or living donation.  

5.      Implement an annual potential donor audit programme.  

Speakers last week included: Dr Maria Kehoe PhD, National Office of Clinical Audit (NOCA); Dr. Brenda Griffin, Consultant Nephrologist, St James’s Hospital and Tallaght University Hospital; and Prof George Mellotte, Clinical Lead, HSE National Renal Office; IKA Chief Executive Carol Moore and IKA National Honorary Chairman Eddie Flood.

Pictures Gareth Chaney

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