Matt’s story

Further reading: Matt’s Dad gives his account

Hi everyone, I’m Matt Coombs. This is about my
experiences with kidney failure, especially with my kidney transplant. I will also talk about how lucky I have been. As you will discover, whilst now my life is better than I ever expected it to be, it wasn’t all smooth sailing and there were some very hard times for all of my family and friends.

I was actually born with a serious flaw in my left kidney, and when I was 18 months old I was diagnosed with cancer. The doctors removed the kidney but due to complications during surgery, it actually took 4 operations to complete everything. After that, I led a very normal life, as almost everyone who has a kidney removed does. The only two things that was different that I had to drink more water than most people and I wasn’t allowed to play contact sports. I joined the scout movement and the Army Cadets, played football, cricket and hockey for school and even played cricket at youth county level for two years. Nothing could prepare us for what would happen when I was 14, when a stomach bug hit the school. Almost everyone got it and the school was quarantined for a while. After everyone recovered, I was getting pains in my kidney. I also lost my appetite, had very bad body odour and even worse breath. People thought I was being a teenager and not washing or eating on purpose, and when I went home for Christmas, my parents were given instructions to get me washed and fed, which seems sensible. However, hindsight is a wonderful thing. Not long after I returned to school, I was playing football in goal. Someone took a shot, the ball went past me – I wasn’t very good – it hit the post and rebounded straight in to my kidney. It hurt like hell and I went down like a sack of potatoes. The school doctor was called and after blood and urine tests, I was diagnosed with kidney failure and put on the waiting list for a transplant. It changed my life. I had planned to play cricket professionally or join the army, and both of those plans went up in smoke. My parents had to move back to the UK, I was moved school and I was put on a low protein and low potassium diet.

I had to wait for an a half years for my transplant. My dad was chosen to be my donor, but there were 11 potential donors for me. Special mention here goes to my dad’s first boss in the UK. After finding out about my illness, he spoke to his doctor and underwent the tests to see if he could donate. This man had never met me and only knew my dad for a few weeks, and I am so grateful to him for his extraordinary offer.

I had the transplant at Bristol Southmead in April 2005, was a success. My dad was my donor and we were both home quicker than the usual time, and following September I got my first proper job at a warehouse in Somerset. When I was in hospital, I had another stroke of luck. Through a young person’s renal patient scheme, I was put in touch with Deborah Maddison, who you might have seen on the news this summer. She was the first person who was my age, had a similar illness, the same operation who I met and her support and friendship is something I treasure. However, the Christmas after my transplant I was back in hospital with a viral infection. There were fears that I would need another transplant, but after strong antibiotics, three months off work and having to miss the second half of my comeback season at the hockey club, I was back at work and preparing for the cricket season.

I have had one case of rejection, which was sorted with a course of steroids. Even the steroids gave me a problem, in the shape of steroid induced psychosis, also known as roid rage. I was taken off them after getting angry with a young lad in my cricket team and hitting him. Yes it’s true I was on steroids, and I don’t think I would have done it had I not been on the steroids. However, it was still inexcusable and I was lucky not to be arrested for assault. I started to suffer from depression after another visit to hospital, when I was admitted for suspected appendicitis, only to discover it was another infection. Aside for my kidney removal and transplant, I had already had several operations for cleft lip and palate and an operation to have grommets in my ears. In total, I have had 16 operations, all before my 19th birthday. I guess it all caught up with me. I started to blame myself for my dad having to donate me a kidney, I was distant, stopped exercising and became a very unpleasant person to be around. I also lost my job and I started sitting around, doing nothing but swearing and playing computer games. After many, many counselling sessions and a course of anti-depressants, I was decided it was time to get my life in order.

I went to college to study, and I graduated top of my class. Having never taken an interest in school, it was a surprise for everyone. So when I decided to come to university, everyone had doubters, except for one very special lady. Her name is Monica, she’s from Ecuador and she is my fiancée. We got engaged this summer (2013) after being together for nearly 3 years. At this point, I should say that can’t blame people for doubting me at college and university. I was awful at school. All I wanted to do was play cricket and get covered in mud. But that kidney transplant and all of the negative experiences, as well as the positives, have led me to where I am now. I’m a third year university student, engaged to a beautiful, charming, very special young lady. So many people have been wonderful to me. My dad is the obviously candidate, for donating me a kidney. With that are my mum for her constant unwavering support, all my uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews for loving me despite my faults. Now there are two special mentions, this time for the Gearey, who have been family friends for over 20 years, and who have been less like friends and more like family. The second special mention is for all of the doctors and nurses who took such great are of Dad and I, and every time I go for a check-up, or if I am admitted to hospital, they are all wonderful with me, and I don’t understand how politicians can continue to make so many cutbacks to such a wonderful service. The NHS has been responsible for so much of the luck I have had. So many operations would financially cripple a family in so many other countries around the world. My family have never had to pay for a single operation, my medication is cheaper than most countries and I am forever grateful for all of the luck. I have since decided that the time has come for me to do my bit one day. Inspired by my god son Andrew, and my friend Deborah, I have decided that when my life is stable, after Monica and I are married and financially secure, I will donate bone marrow and if possible, a part of my liver. I have been lucky in life, and I intend to spread that luck as best as I can.

Thank you for reading, and I wish you all the very best, Matt

Matt’s Dad was the donor

Read Matt’s Dad gives account of being a donor

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