independent

Sunday 21 September 2014

Waiting for the phone call that will change her life

When Lorraine Armstrong began feeling unwell while on honeymoon, little did she realise that her kidney function was drastically low and that she would need a transplant

Emma Gallagher

Published 01/04/2014 | 05:40

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Lorraine Armstrong at her home in Ballygawley

A FEW short weeks after her honeymoon in Mexico, 26-year-old Lorraine Armstrong was told her kidney function was drastically low.

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Instead of enjoying the feeling of being newly married, the Ballygawley woman was facing dialysis.

She said: "I got married in October 2012.

"My husband Anthony and I went on honeymoon to Mexico.

"On our honeymoon, I started feeling unwell, my ankles were swollen, I had a really bad cough and headaches.

"I didn't feel great and it was definitely out of the ordinary for me.

"Initially, I was putting it down to the excitement and stress of planning my wedding."

When the couple returned to Sligo, Lorraine started experiencing blurred vision.

"I went to the opticians but they couldn't find anything wrong with my eyes.

"I woke up one Saturday and I felt that I was about to die.

"My head was pounding and my vision was really bad - I could barely see.

"It was a wake-up call."

Lorraine went to hospital where she was seen straight away.

"My blood pressure was 200/127 which was fairly big.

"There was a worry that I could be at the risk of stroke or a brain haemorrhage so doctors began to stabilise my blood pressure."

Later, she found out that her kidney function was only a mere 11 percent.

"At the time I didn't really understand, I think my family realised before me.

"I had a biopsy in Galway and was told that I needed dialysis and a transplant."

Both of her kidneys were failing.

She began dialysis at home.

"I have to do it for eight hours overnight.

"It is a big change, there is an awful lot of equipment all over the house.

"I need 17 litres of fluid a night and a monthly supply is delivered, so there are boxes everywhere.

"I suppose there are pros and cons of having the dialysis at home.

"The pros are that you are in control of your own treatment, but you don't get to see people who are in similar situations to you."

She added that her symptoms are improving thanks to the dialysis.

"But if I get a chest infection, they flare up again.

"It knocks you for six. I am also on a lot of medication."

She said that her condition is out of the ordinary for such a young person.

"Normally, kidney failure is common in people in their 70s or 80s.

"Although it is becoming common in younger people."

The reason Lorraine kidney's failed was because she has an auto-immune disease, known as ITA.

Her kidney function now has dropped to four percent.

"I have been on the transplant waiting list since December.

"The average waiting time is three years, now I could get lucky and get one within six months, or it could be five years, I don't know."

She stressed the importance of people becoming transplant donors.

"If people could get donor cards and discuss their wishes with their families, it would mean so much to people like me."

She praised the Sligo branch of the Irish Kidney Association for being a great support.

As has her family.

"Anthony has been great, I suppose there are two ways of looking at it, in a way I'm extremely lucky that nothing happened when I was on honeymoon.

"My family find it hard some days – it was a big shock – I don't think anyone expected it."

Lorraine isn't letting her condition totally engulf her life – on April 11th she is bridesmaid at brother Brendan's wedding to Caroline Brennan.

She keeps her phone on her at all times, waiting for that call that hopefully will come to change her life.

Sligo Champion

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