A Team QEH member has the very best reason to champion organ donation.
Gemma Sturge had her life transformed when she underwent a kidney transplant six years ago. It has enabled her to live life fully and be carefree about starting a family.
“Not only did it completely change my life for the better but it gave others life too – I now have two children,” she said.
Gemma, 33, was born with a reflux issue and was under Great Ormond Street Hospital in London when it was noted that one of her kidneys had not grown properly.
“The other one had scarring from taking on the job of two,” she said. “It meant that I would need a transplant at some point.”
After meeting husband Gary the couple moved to Norfolk, and Gemma started to see QEH nephrology consultant Dr Smita Gunda, who put her on the waiting list for a transplant. Gemma was referred to Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge for dialysis and, given that she was blood group B, prepared herself for an anticipated five-year wait for a suitable donor.
In fact it was just 13 months later – in January 2012 – that she received the phone call to say a match had been found she was undergoing surgery.
Gemma said: “The kidney was coming from Leicester and I needed to get to Addenbrooke’s right away. I had been feeling really unwell in the lead-up to it and even on the journey there I still couldn’t believe the transplant was going to happen.
“When I came round after surgery, I remember the nurse asking ‘how are you feeling?’. I said ‘I feel great’ – and I really did.”
The transplant made it much easier for Gary and Gemma to consider having the family they craved and now the couple are proud parents to Harley (5) and Austin (2).
And Gemma’s career continued on track too. A part-time bed manager in the Trust, she has worked in the NHS since 2005. The only time off she had was for recovery from the operation.
Gemma sees Dr Gunda for transplant follow-up check-ups every three months, which will reduce in time to once a year.
“Who knows what my situation would have been without the transplant,” she said. “I would have been really unwell and possibly not been able to work. I don’t know if or when I would have been able to have children.”
She added: “I like working for the healthcare system. The NHS has done so much for me.
“I try to promote organ donation as much as I can.”
The Sturges have built a close relationship with Paresh and Kalpna Parmar, parents of Ashni, the 12-year-old donor. Gemma says she will be forever thankful for the way they have helped transform her life.
To find out more about organ donation visit http://www.organdonation.nhs.uk
Main photo caption: Gemma Sturge with youngest son Austin, 2, at QEH.
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