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Real life: ‘My wife gave me her kidney’

Husband and wife Dennis and Faye Naicker share more than love, ever since Faye decided to give Dennis one of her kidneys. Dennis tells their story.

‘I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes about 15 years ago. When I went for my annual check-up at the beginning of 2012, my endocrinologist immediately referred me to a nephrologist, as she wasn’t happy with my blood results. I thought she was overreacting, so it was a huge shock to hear I was experiencing renal failure.

‘The doctor suggested surgery to put in a fistula and that I start dialysis as soon as possible, but I refused to accept this. We came to a compromise where I would visit the doctor regularly so he could closely monitor my condition, but there was no doubt that my kidney function was rapidly deteriorating.

‘When he told me he was putting me on the organ transplant waiting list, my wife Faye asked him to test her as a possible donor. I refused. We have two children and our son was only four years old at the time, and I didn’t want to compromise her health in any way. But Faye insisted, so we started the testing process and amazingly discovered that she was a perfect match.

‘By that stage I had no choice but to start dialysis. Even though I was symptom-free, both my kidneys were failing and I was sent to the dialysis unit at Life Fourways Hospital, where I received the most wonderful care. The entire team was completely professional and made every twice-weekly session as comfortable as possible.

Getting approval

‘Because Faye and I were not related other than by marriage, we had to get government approval for the transplant, and for the next four months we chased the Department of Health, phoning and emailing them about the status of our request. When the call finally came that we had their approval, I couldn’t stop crying.

‘Before I received my kidney on 5 February 2013, Faye endured further invasive tests and iron transfusions, and she never once complained. She remained extremely positive throughout, firmly believing, as I did, that this would turn out for the best. Of course we both knew that anything could happen on that operating table, but she was determined to see this through. On the morning of the transplant, when the surgeon asked her yet again if she was sure she wanted to proceed, she responded with a firm “yes”. 

Going into surgery

‘Faye was in theatre for approximately seven hours; my surgery took about four. The care and support we received at Life Fourways Hospital and Wits University Donald Gordon Medical Centre Transplant Unit from every member of our medical team was incredible, and it continues to be the same every time I pop in for my regular check-ups. Our families and friends stepped in when we got home, and their help, together with support from our workplaces and local church, helped us both to make a full recovery.

‘Faye is the bravest person I have ever met. Our life together has always been a strong bond of friendship and love, and there’s no doubt that this experience has brought us even closer. During our recovery we’d sit and hold hands, and every time we did so I was convinced I could feel her kidney move in me.

‘We’ve been married for 28 years and I still can’t believe how much Faye has given me: two gorgeous children, and one of her healthy kidneys so that we can walk together until the end of time. I know I am truly blessed.’

In Faye’s words

‘Dennis is the best husband, dad, brother and son and, when we received the diagnosis, offering my kidney was the most natural thing to do. It’s been a really difficult time for us all and going through the transplant was tough. However, seeing Dennis doing so well today and living his life to the fullest makes everything we went through completely worthwhile. We are so grateful that we were able to overcome all the challenges.’

The information is shared on condition that readers will make their own determination, including seeking advice from a healthcare professional. E&OE. Life Healthcare Group Ltd does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage suffered by the reader as a result of the information provided.