When diabetes sufferer and Sheffield businessman David Marshall paid a visit to his GP for a routine appointment, he thought a simple check-up was all that was required.
However, despite not feeling unwell beforehand, the 41-year-old received a huge shock by being diagnosed with severe kidney disease.
Determined to maintain his quality of life, he managed to avoid dialysis treatment for as long as possible until his wife, Jo, was found to be a suitable transplant match.
Following 12 months of tests, David, of Brincliffe, underwent a living donor transplant.
Now, six years on, both he and Jo, a florist, are back to health and working full-time again.
The Marshalls’ story had a positive ending – but there are many cases which have more tragic consequences.
Kidney disease affects about 10 to 15 per cent of the population in Sheffield and north Derbyshire, and is known as the ‘silent killer’ as it can often go undetected.
Today is World Kidney Day 2015, an international event which aims to make people aware of the life-limiting illness, how it can be prevented, and the help and treatment available for patients.
To coincide with the campaign, the Sheffield Kidney Institute – based at the city’s Northern General Hospital in Fir Vale – is launching a series of initiatives highlighting the importance of ‘kidney health for all’.
People with high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and a family history of renal illness have a higher risk of developing the disease, which is also particularly prevalent among African-Caribbean and Asian groups.
Last year, the institute treated more than 6,000 patients from across the region. It also carries out 70 transplants a year, while about 550 patients undergo dialysis three times a week.
David, who runs Bradley Refrigeration on Abbeydale Road, Millhouses, has lived with Type 1 diabetes since the age of seven – people with diabetes are at increased risk of disease because of their raised blood sugar level, which can trigger a scarring process within the kidneys.
Following his surprise diagnosis 10 years ago, he realised the consequences and the impact it could have on his future.
“My biggest fear was not being able to work and provide for my family,” he says. “My research showed that when you had to start dialysing many people found it difficult to continue working.”
He says he felt ‘immediately better’ following his transplant.
“It was only then I realised how ill I had been,” David says. “I started working part-time after eight weeks.
“It took a little bit longer for my wife to fully recover because her body had to adjust to working on a single kidney.”
David will be on anti-rejection drugs for the rest of his life and returns to the institute for follow-up tests every three months. He is now chairman for the Sheffield Area Kidney Association.
However, not all transplants work successfully.
Nicola Crispin, aged 39, from Wortley, has lived with kidney disease virtually all her life. She had a transplant in 2007, but it failed and within three years she was back on dialysis, which she said occupies much of her life.
“Health problems aside, I miss out on a lot of events with family and friends because I am at the hospital dialysing,” she says.
Unfortunately there is limited chance of another transplant being successful.
She was due to have a live donor transplant from her mother. However this was halted at the last stage due to rejection issues.
Nicola says: “I am getting to the end of the treatments available for me and a transplant is very unlikely due to my antibody levels, so unless more funds are put into research I will reach the end of the road.”
Fellow patient Robert Ashton faces a similar predicament.
The retired 65-year-old, who used to work as a driver for a bakery, had a 22-year respite from disease after a successful transplant in 1987.
However, that is now failing and he has been on dialysis in Sheffield since 2009.
Robert says: “I didn’t realise how poorly I was before I had the transplant. Having a new, healthy kidney makes you realise how rough you felt prior to it.”
Dr Arif Khwaja, a consultant nephrologist at the institute, says: “Chronic kidney disease is common.
“However, it can go undetected as people often have no symptoms. The good news is that, depending on the problem, early detection, changes in lifestyle and a healthy diet can often slow down the progression of the disease, delaying the possible need for dialysis or transplantation.”
“Ongoing research is vital. It has already helped find better ways to treat people and give them a quality of life they would not have been able to enjoy 20 years ago.
“For families with hereditary kidney disease, our research offers hope future generations will not continue to be blighted by this terrible disease.”
* A free drop-in event was taking place today from 4.30pm at Inox Dine, in Sheffield University’s Students’ Union building on Western Bank. Visitors were invited to talk to medics, patients and learn about research being conducted in Sheffield – see www.facebook.com/WorldKidneyDaySheffield for details.
* To make a donation to fund local research, visit Sheffield Kidney Institute or text HOSPITAL14 and the amount you wish to donate to 70660.