|Youngest patient: Hannah Eke, 2|
TODAY we celebrate 40 years of kidney transplants in Nottingham –
including the operation that saved the life of two-year-old Hannah Eke.
More than 1,700 people, among them the 40 people pictured
here, have been given the gift of life since the first
transplant was performed by Professor Roger Blamey at Nottingham City
Hospital on February 4, 1974. The city has become a regional centre for
kidney transplantation and one of the top places in the UK for
operations on children. More than 330 children have benefited from a
kidney transplant in the city.
The youngest is Hannah. She was born with kidneys that were
too small to function properly. But, two days before Christmas, a
donor was found through the national register. Hannah’s mother, Clare,
35, received a telephone call at 4.30am to say a kidney was available
and the team was ready to operate.
„Six weeks later, Hannah is living proof of how much a
transplant changes a person’s life,“ said Clare. „We very much
appreciate what that family did for us.“
„It’s only been six weeks, but she’s a different little girl. She
obviously feels better. Her hair, her nails, her body, everything – you
can just tell she feels well. Seeing how she is, it’s just amazing.
She’s very brave.“
Transplant surgeon Keith Rigg said: „There’s still lots
of work to do but it’s a great achievement to have got to this stage.
We’re very proud.“
AT just two years old, Hannah Eke was undergoing dialysis six times every week.
Born with both kidneys too small and unable to do their job, the toddler had a gastronomy tube in her stomach to help.
And doctors prescribed her medication to prevent her from feeling sick and replenish her sodium levels.
Hannah’s parents had never heard of dysplastic kidneys. The
condition was not hereditary and Ben, their five-year-old son, was
Their daughter’s illness meant making lifestyle changes, including a lot of travel.
It meant making regular trips from their home in King’s Lynn to Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre.
In September 2013, Hannah was placed on the organ donation
register and, just four months later, a kidney was found, and the
youngster was given the ultimate Christmas present.
On December 23, her parents received a telephone call from
Ward E17 to say a kidney was available and doctors could operate at the
QMC right away.
Hannah’s mum, Clare, 35, said: „Before the operation, she
was weak and often dehydrated, with dark circles around her eyes. She
tired easily. Her condition prevented her from enjoying food. It
affected her taste buds, so all food tasted bitter. She would rather
play with her food, which wasn’t healthy for a growing child.
„Then, five days later, she said ‚mummy, can I have a
cheese sandwich?‘ She’d never asked for food in her life and it was
amazing to watch her eat.
„Now, she loves food. She’s more active – stronger, more
spritely and keeps up with her brother a lot more. I’ve watched her grow
„She was always happy but now she is all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and it is beautiful to watch.“
Hannah will remain on anti-kidney rejection medication for
the rest of her life. However, in time, she will be weaned off her
And Clare will never forget the work that the staff at Nottingham’s hospitals did after two very difficult years.
She said: „I just want to say thank you to the staff on Ward E17.
„Over the last two years, the family have got to know them well. They’re brilliant and work very hard.
„We live a long way from the QMC and if we ever needed
anything, they would always call us back. I can’t thank them enough for
the care and support they have given us. They welcomed all of us into
their lives and we are most grateful.“
For Clare, it’s of vital importance that the life-changing work at the hospitals is recognised.
„It’s changed everything for us,“ she said.
„Hannah was on dialysis six nights a week at home. She used to be very sick.
„It means she can do what other children her age are doing.
„There are lots of hospital visits and blood tests. That’s not a pleasant experience for any child.“
She also hopes other parents to remain hopeful during what can be an exhausting time.
She added: „My message to other mums and dads is ‚hold on, hang in there because the phone call will come‘.“
Have a look at our gallery of transplant patients here.
HOW transplants have changed, according to consultant Keith Rigg, who has worked for NUH since 1992
„Patients themselves are generally fitter when they come
for a transplant because dialysis is better and management of patients
„There have been changes in some of the drugs that we use to prevent rejection – they have improved.
„They are more selective now and make more judgements about
the best match. Because of that, we see less rejection and that’s
certainly one of the reasons they will last for a longer period of time
than to start with.
„The other thing we’ve seen is that we are perhaps better at matching organs and the tests are more sophisticated.
„The surgical operation hasn’t changed that much but people
have more experience and surgical and anaesthetic techniques are
„Operations take a shorter amount of time and the length of stay in hospital has gone down over the years.“