The Kidney Biopsy

I love how photos and videos can send you right back to when they were shot, even if the circumstances weren’t the best at the time. Shuffling through some old photo books with my mum recently, we found these three photos of me in hospital, in 1994.

I was 7 years old when I had a kidney biopsy, to determine my diagnosis of Alport Syndrome.

I remember jumping in the car with my parents and travelling to London to visit the Great Ormond Street Hospital. It was a mini adventure into the city for me. I was never scared by any of it, probably because I didn’t really understand what was going on… and even the needles didn’t scare me much. “It’s just a lil pinch”, I’d tell myself. The only thing I didn’t like was the smell inside the hospital, and I still don’t like it now!

On one occasion, there was an asian boy screaming the building down, hiding under a table, while a couple of nurses tried to talk him into doing a blood test. He was absolutely terrified of needles. The nurse asked if I wanted to go first, but before I said yes, I knelt down on the floor and asked the boy if he wanted to watch me do it.

He stopped screaming, sheepishly nodded his head and scuttled along to the end of the table.

I plonked myself in the chair, swung my legs back and forth and gave him a grin. He smiled back at me and made his was further out from under the table. I watched the needle sink into my arm and then looked over at the boy as the nurse filled two containers up. “See, it’s just a lil pinch!”, I said.

Although I wasn’t particularly scared of what was happening, I remember feeling like I was different to everyone else at school.

It was around this time that I started doing hearing tests, right in the middle of a lesson. I hated being the centre of attention, as the whole class stopped and stared at me while I left the room with a stranger. I knew they’d ask questions when I got back to my desk. As I sat there with a huge pair of headphones hanging off my tiny head, clicking away at the buzzer every time I heard a beep, I’d think of different stories to tell them when it was over! Sure enough, as I entered the room, a barrage of questions from my friends. I decided to say “I was getting extra help with my spelling”, every time. I don’t know why I couldn’t tell them what was really happening. I suppose this was my first experience of wearing a mask.

Eating loads of toast with WAY too much butter on it, meeting Barney the Dinosaur, and seeing my family when they came to visit me were my favourite things about those trips to GOSH. The photo below is with my uncle Terry. At that time, he had been dialysing for 9 years, after his first transplant failed. For most of my life, he’s been the only person I’ve known with Alport Syndrome. I’ll do a separate post about his story…

So anyway… I jumped out of the chair and asked the boy if he wanted to give it a go. “Yes, but can I hold your hand?”, he said. I remember not wanting to do it, he’d been snotting all over it while crying his eyes out! But the good Samaritan in me took over and I let him hold my hand, while he had his blood test. The fairytale ending to this story would be that we went on to become really good friends, grew up together and stayed in touch to this day… but I have absolutely no idea what his name is or where he is right now!

I like to think that I helped him to overcome his fear of needles, at least!

I attended GOSH until I was 16 and just wanted to say a huge thank you to Great Ormond Street Hospital for looking after me for all those years.