Kidney transplant recipient
21-year-old John Dunwell from Leeds was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease, known as FSGS, in October 2009, meaning his kidneys weren’t filtering blood properly. He had to undergo haemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis to manage the condition in February 2011 and later that year was placed on the transplant waiting list.
“It was a waiting game,” says John. “Every time the phone rings, you get nervous. You have to be prepared to get that call at any time of the day.”
Due to his illness leaving him with little energy, John was mainly confined to the house and rarely attended school.
“I couldn’t do normal things every teenager does – going to the cinema, hanging out with my friends. On a good day, I could walk to the shop and that was it,” explains John.
Four weeks after being placed on the transplant waiting list, John found out that he would receive a life-changing transplant. Since receiving a new kidney, John has spent a lot of time promoting organ donation in the hope it will inspire other people to sign the organ donation register.
“Doing the Rickshaw Challenge for BBC Children in Need in 2014 was incredible – I joined a team of five people taking shifts cycling the rickshaw. It started in Manchester on the Monday and finished in London on the Friday. It was intense but such an amazing opportunity to raise awareness and be involved in a national campaign!”
John is now a key member of the Youth Forum at Leeds Children’s Hospital, a group of young people who meet every few months and hold discussions on how to improve services for patients. The Youth Forum has introduced a space called the Place 2 Be, an area for younger long-term patients to take some time out. He also organises a charity football team for organ recipients.