Nine year-old Calvin Bradshaw has always been a happy child despite living with serious kidney damage.
Earlier this year the primary school boy’s kidney function reached dangerously low levels and his family were told he’d need to undergo a kidney transplant.
Since Calvin was diagnosed when he was just eight months old in 2005, his mum and dad Amanda and James from the Whitehouse area have known that the day would come when a transplant would be essential.
And when the time came both parents were more than ready to give their son the priceless gift of a good quality of life by donating a kidney. Both underwent the tests and both were found to be suitable candidates. In the end it was James who insisted on going under the knife for Calvin, although the family are more than aware that a further donation may well be needed some years down the line.
“The kidney has taken well but he is being closely monitored for a year and still gets check ups in the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children in Belfast once a month,” Amanda told the ‘Journal’.
The significance of the gift of donation didn’t dawn on James until he was back home after surgery a day after the transplant when he got a call from Calvin’s bedside. Amanda told me that Calvin’s kidney function had doubled. She said it was thanks to me, I was emotional, I was delighted and relieved.”
Since he was just a few months old Calvin Bradshaw has been living with badly damaged kidneys as a result of an enlarged bladder.
He was born on June 9 2004 and became very ill in February 2005.
A scan in August discovered that his enlarged bladder had permanently damaged his kidneys and substantially reduced kidney function.
“He had 28% kidney function and we were told that if it dropped below 15% he would need a transplant or dialysis,” Amanda said.
“With regular check ups it was maintained at that level for years but it dropped last year and then we were told he would need a transplant or have to begin dialysis.
“Both James and I were taken in for testing to see if we were suitable donors. We were surprised that the first test is to make sure that we both have two kidneys. We both turned out to be suitable but James decided he would be the donor.
“They prefer a living donor and it was very fortunate that we both were suitable otherwise we’d be on a waiting list, waiting for someone to die and not knowing when we’d get the call,” Amanda said.
James, who owns a coach travel company, was advised to prepare for the operation three months in advance. “I was told to get physically fit in the months before the operation so I started walking and then jogging. I felt had good reason to get healthy, I had great motivation.”
James underwent surgery at Belfast City Hospital and his kidney was transferred to theatre at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children where Calvin underwent the transplant surgery the following day.
“It was so scary for us but Calvin just walked down to the theatre himself.
“He was so brave, he was amazing.
“When he woke up in the evening, he thought he’d only been asleep a few minutes and was looking for juice and some toast,” Amanda said.
In the four days that followed Calvin was closely monitored in the intensive care unit.
As the time passed, Amanda stayed at her son’s bedside as James recovered from his operation at home. Both parents grew increasingly hopeful as the kidney was accepted by Calvin’s body and his condition improved.
The family has paid tribute to the “fantastic support” they received from the staff at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children and the Children’s Kidney Fund NI.
“We’d like to thank all the staff in the Intensive Care Unit and in the Barbour Ward and especially thank Calvin’s consultant paediatric nephrologist Dr Mary O’Connor who has monitored Calvin for the last seven years.
The Bradshaw family recently held a fundraising dance in Amanda’s home village of Muff to aid the Children’s Kidney Fund.
“We raised £3,700 in the Squealin’ Pig pub where the dance on July 19 was very well supported by many people. We’d like to thank everyone who supported us in any way for the very good cause,” Amanda said.
Following a minor operation to relieve his bladder when he was an infant, Calvin had lived life just like any other playful child right up until the weeks prior to his transplant.
“We only really started to see him get tired, which is a symptom of the problem, in the lead up to the operation. Since he was a baby, Calvin was never really sick with it. He has lived normally, like other children.
“He went to football training and other things.”
The St Eithne’s PS pupil, who will be in P6 next month, told the ‘Journal’ that he didn’t mind missing school at all while he was undergoing treatment.
The Manchester United fan is also looking forward to watching his team beat Liverpool again this season in the Premier League and seeing his favourite player Wayne Rooney score the goals.
The Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children is the only hospital in Northern Ireland dedicated specifically to the care of children. It has 107 beds, and provides general hospital care for children living in Belfast, as well as providing most of the paediatric regional specialities for children throughout Northern Ireland.
In Northern Ireland anyone can give a kidney as long as they are found to be physically and psychologically suitable.
No minimum age limit is specified under the Human Tissue Act 2004, but most donors will be over the age of 18 years.