Tag: Donor

Guest Blog: Charlotte Willis shares her passion for #NationalDonorDay

Guest Blog: Charlotte Willis shares her passion for #NationalDonorDay

I’d like to introduce myself: my name is Charlotte. I’m 39 years old and I live in London. I’ve also lived in other cities too: Hong Kong, Amsterdam, Sydney, but my home, and my family and friends, are in the UK. I enjoy my job working in technology in Finance, and have worked hard to build a successful career after I finished university. Outside of work, I like to go to the theatre, see live music, watch movies (especially outdoor ones on summer evenings), and go for walks in the countryside at the weekend.

I enjoy doing ‘adventure’ sports too: skiing, surfing, and I used to trampoline competitively (at amateur level) until a few years ago. Last year I also sailed a quarter of the way around the world, crewing a 70ft ocean racing yacht as part of a global yacht race. I’ve run the London Marathon and completed the London Triathlon. I like to travel too, explore new countries and cultures, and count countries as I go – I’m up to 52!

I am a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) Ambassador and spent some time last year volunteering at a ‘code club’ teaching kids how to code computers. I try and find time to volunteer through my work too to encourage the next generation, especially girls, to consider technology as a career, and to recognise that not all technology jobs have to be ‘geeky’!

I’m very close to my parents and siblings and am enjoying seeing my 1-year old twin neices get more and more mischievous as they get older!

Oh and I’ve also had two kidney transplants. My kidneys failed unexpectedly and out of the blue when I was 12 years old and mine and my family’s lives were turned upside down overnight. A month later, a family unbeknownst to me lost their son in a car accident and they made the incredibly brave decision to donate his organs for transplant – I was the lucky recipient of one of his kidneys. Their selfless act meant that rather than being resigned to a continual whirlwind of hospitals, what-if conversations, medications, and operations, my life and importantly the lives of my parents and my siblings and all those close to us straightened out and returned to normal. A slightly new version of normal – I still take a small collection of pills twice a day – but I went home, I went back to school, my parents started to breathe a little more easily, and I got to live. And that’s an abiding part of the way I choose to live my life to this day; someone else made a decision that allowed me to carry on living when their son couldn’t and I am grateful for that every single day. Their son’s kidney graduated university with me, travelled the Trans-Siberian railway with me, ran the London Marathon with me. Through the anonymity of organ donation (the choice is up to the donor’s family) they have been such a huge part of my life and yet I have no idea who they are. I can’t change their story but they’ve changed mine and I take that responsibility seriously.

Transplanted organs don’t live forever yet (medical science is still working on that one) and in my late 20s, my donated kidney got too tired to keep me going at the level needed. Unlike the overnight bombshell the first time around though, this time we had time to plan and make choices, and in collaboration with the doctors, it was decided that my Dad would donate a kidney to me. He was 65 years old at the time but after passing all the medical tests, he had one kidney removed via keyhole surgery and it was transplanted into me, right next to my first donated kidney. It’s not uncommon for first transplants to be left where they are and mine still chugs away, doing what kidneys do, supporting my Dad’s kidney. So whilst it may have needed some extra help, it remains an important part of me. My Dad’s age and therefore the age of my second donated kidney isn’t an issue either – his kidney completed the London Triathlon with me, climbed the highest mountain in Borneo with me, and sailed 10,000 nautical miles with me across the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

Ten years down the line, both my Dad and I are fit and healthy, and life for us and our family has again carried on as it should. I turn 40 next year and I’m already planning how to mark the occasion! I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my two kidneys donated by selfless, brave, and very special people. That car accident in 1990 that took one family’s son gave me, and everyone close to me, an opportunity to carry on living. Organ donation is a personal issue and one you will most likely have a view on, but I hope that my story also gives you a view of how ordinary people are leading ordinary lives, only made possible by extraordinary decisions. Make the extraordinary decisions in your life as they might save someone else’s.

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