Aberdeen student’s kidney battle inspires her to graduate

Student Kate Kenyon
Student Kate Kenyon
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INSPIRATIONAL student Kate Kenyon has had to live with chronic renal failure since she was three, but her fight – which will see her graduate this year – has led her to urge others to become organ and blood donors.

She has endured continuous trips to hospital, two kidney transplants, meningitis – and a lot of hard studying.

Student calls for more organ donors

Student calls for more organ donors

Kate is now speaking of her journey and is encouraging people to be part of the blood and organ donor registers as lives can be completely transformed like hers.

Through her sheer dedication, hard work and perseverance, she has come out on top and will proudly collect a degree from Robert Gordon University (RGU) late this year.

The 23-year-old from Turiff, but living in Aberdeen, was on peritoneal dialysis for four years as a child, received a kidney transplant from her mum at the age of seven and then sadly it failed 12 years later at the age of 19.

For the last four years, she has bravely undergone hemodialysis.

Two years of attending three times a week for four hours – and the past two years six times a week for two hours – during which time she has also been studying for a degree in communications with public relations from RGU’s Aberdeen Business School.

Kate, who is from Turriff but now lives in Aberdeen, said: “I have always been interested in working with people in a creative environment so when I was in my penultimate year of school, my mum brought me to RGU for one of their open days and I was instantly drawn to the buzz and excitement surrounding the campus.

“I studied a HND in advertising and public relations at Aberdeen College and it was one of the best times of my life so far.

“I had great fun, met so many fantastic people and produced some not half bad work! By the middle of second year I was looking to achieve an overall A and be accepted for my beloved communications with public relations course.

“Sadly, in January 2012, my transplanted kidney rejected. I was in hospital for six weeks and had to put my education on hold.

READ MORE: Huge number of Scots sign up to be organ donors

“It was an extremely hard time and utterly life changing. During that summer I decided to contact RGU, despite not having my HND, and asked if there was any way of being able to start my studies with them in the October.

“I was extremely fortunate to be accepted into second year, albeit for the second time.

“Nevertheless, due to the extreme immunosuppressive medication I was given I missed two out of my four Christmas deadlines as I contracted meningococcal meningitis and pneumonia at the same time and ended back up in hospital.

“I then missed one of my deadlines in April because of influenza A.”

At this point, Kate thought maybe it was time to take a break but she was determined not to quit and persevered. She did not complete one module however and had to re-do second year, for a third time.

She said: “In the September, before uni started, I was attending dialysis three times a week as well as working weekends at a night club, being student ambassador for the university accommodation department and being part of the fresher’s team.

“I was tired but at the same time you have to be part of university life as much as you can and take any opportunity that you are given.

“In respect to my outstanding contribution to the university as a student ambassador, I was awarded the esteemed Student Ambassador of the Year Award in the following March which I am extremely proud of.

“In late September I started back at uni part-time, still working in the nightclub at weekends and as a marketing and events assistant for a marketing and business development company during my time away from uni.

“Earlier in July I had decided to apply for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Not once did it cross my mind how I would do dialysis at the Games, I just went for it and dialysis would have to be an afterthought if I was successful.

“I managed to get an interview in September – and I made my interviewee cry. She asked what motivates me and I spoke about my illness and my positive outlook and she wept. I became one of the 15,000 volunteers.

“I made a video diary of my time at the Games for my documentary module at university and achieved an A. This meant that I was welcomed into third year with open arms – finally!

“The whole of third year ran smoothly. I passed all of my modules first time, I had started attending dialysis six times a week which gave me more of a social life and also took away many of the side effects of the treatment such as fatigue and insomnia - contradictory but true.”

Kate was awarded ‘Great Scot of the Year’ by the Sunday Mail for her outstanding contribution to sport during the Commonwealth Games.

“Never in a million years did I think I would win anything related to my contribution to sport. I can barely even swim”, she added.

Kate continued: “Third year came and went and it was my greatest year to date in terms of health, education and pretty much everything else. I started fourth year on high spirits and was determined to receive a First. By January I was on track, already achieving one A and three Bs.”

Then at 2.40am on January 26, Kate received the phone call she had been waiting four years for.

READ MORE: Appeal for ethnic minorities to join organ donor register

She said: “RGU have been more than supportive and I will hopefully graduate in December this year as opposed to July. Unexpected things happen in life all the time and there is no use fighting them, you just have to roll with it.

“Graduating in December only means that I will have to work over the summer again but I am used to that by now.

“By December I will have my graduation certificate in my hand and be so proud of myself for how far I have come, the struggles I have dealt with and conquered and had a good time while doing it.

“I have to thank my cadaveric (deceased) donor’s family for allowing their relative’s organs to be used to save so many people’s lives, including, obviously, my own.”

Kate is now urging people to be part of the blood and organ donor registers and lives can be completely transformed like hers. She is still recovering in hospital after a kidney transplant.

“Tiring, jaded, drained, strenuous, agonising or any other adjective used to express a struggle would be the words you think of when you hear that someone with a long-term illness is carrying on with their education whilst undergoing lifesaving treatment. I however think of dedication, hard work, perseverance, tenacity and pride. Long-term-illness-sufferer-uni-goers never, ever give up.

“I have struggled but I have picked myself back up and carried on. By December, it will have taken me two and a half years longer to get my degree than initially planned but once I have that piece of paper in my hand, saying that I have a BA (Hons) Degree in Communications with Public Relations. . . it will be so worth the wait.”

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