When 36-year-old Kathryn Croker was told she needed a life-saving kidney transplant, her parents came forward for testing, hoping they would be a match.
Fortunately, both her father, Kevin, 67, and mother, Anne, 63, were suitable donors – but it was Kevin who selflessly performed the surgery.
The donation was a success — and four years later, Kevin walked down the aisle with his now healthy daughter.
Kathryn said: “We’ve always been close and had a special bond – now I have his kidney and we feel even closer.”
Kathryn, from Northamptonshire, was diagnosed with Henoch Schonlein Purpura (HSP), a condition that affects blood vessels and can lead to kidney complications, when she was just 12 years old.
She explained: “I got a rash on my legs with red pin pricks. When you pressed it it didn’t work, we thought it was bug bites.
“We went to the doctors and they pulled out a book to show my mom that they thought it was HSP and they told us to go to Kettering General Hospital.”
After going to the hospital, Kathryn was initially told to start feeling better within six weeks.
“At that age, six weeks felt like an eternity. I couldn’t go to school and it affected my whole body,” she said.
“I was bedridden for eight weeks and couldn’t get out of bed – it was so painful to walk.
“More time passed and I didn’t get better. I had severe stomach pains that made my legs and feet swollen.”
In late January 1999, Kathryn underwent blood tests. Tests showed her kidneys were failing and she was taken by ambulance to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.
She said: “It was really scary – I’ve had so many different treatments. I had dialysis and plasma exchange.
“After two and a half weeks I was discharged and was lucky enough to leave the hospital with a kidney function of 40%.
“Everyone was stunned — I was on dialysis indefinitely and had to come back three times a week.”
Kathryn went back to a normal life and went to college after high school.
But in 2011, at the age of 24, Kathryn’s health deteriorated again – she was exhausted and had to work fewer hours as a staff member at a children’s center.
Kathryn said: “I slept 13-14 hours a night and still woke up tired, it was hard to function.
“In 2012 I had constant respiratory infections and was hospitalized with kidney infections and pneumonia.”
By February 2013, her kidney function had dropped to as much as 4% and with her life in danger, she was admitted for emergency dialysis and told she would need a kidney transplant.
Her parents, Kevin and Anne, were soon tested to donate their kidneys and they both agreed.
Kathryn added: “It was great that they both matched, but we thought it was up to the hospital to make the choice.
“It was a difficult decision to make.
“I don’t know why, but I always thought my mother would donate her kidney. But my father really wanted to do it and never complained about it.
“The whole time he told me not to worry, but it was a surreal situation.”
In May 2013, Kevin gave birth to his daughter through his left kidney.
She said, “I remember being driven back to the transplant center and I saw my dad in the first bay on the right and the nurse said, ‘Your dad is in there.’
“They stopped me at the bay and he gave me a nice wave – it was such a beautiful moment.”
Thankfully, Kathryn recovered quickly and just four years later, Kevin walked his daughter down the aisle in a touching ceremony to marry her partner, Luke.
It’s a day that Kathryn says “wouldn’t have happened” if her dad hadn’t decided to donate his kidney.
Kathryn added: “It was really emotional. We reached the door of the church and Dad turned around, looked at me and said, ‘I think someone is going to cry.’
“He gave a speech and there were many tears of joy – he talked about my childhood and everyone knew what we had been through.
“Now I’m drawing ‘Kathryn, Luke and Your Left Kidney’ father’s day and birthday cards.”
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