Irish woman (38) tells incredible story of how she suddenly lost everything - great job, dream home and loving partner
Hairdresser Trudy Hayes (38) had it all - a great job, a dream home and a loving partner. Then sudden kidney failure turned her world upside down
'It was at the height of the Celtic Tiger and everyone was spending, me included. Bellinis on a Tuesday? No problem! I was working as a hairdresser in a five-star salon and everything was about the glitz and glam. I was driving around in a stupid big SUV, with a gorgeous house, getting ready to get married and going on lovely holidays every couple of months. I thought my life was set up to go one way but within a year I had none of the things I thought I'd have.
Work was going really well and I was super, super busy. In 2008, I was partnered with a major brand and the Dublin salon I worked in was booked out two months in advance. There was lots of travelling - seminars in London and New York and fashion shows. So when I started getting headaches, I didn't really think anything of it beyond taking two paracetamol and getting on with it. Everyone was burning the candle at both ends. All I was doing was working really hard.
But one morning, while doing a fashion show over in London, my headache was so bad I couldn't get out of bed and I started vomiting. I flew home and went straight to the doctor. When the blood tests came back I got a call saying 'you have to come straight in, this is very serious'. I ended up in intensive care, where I woke up to find myself on dialysis and the news that my kidneys had stopped functioning.
From then on, I was pretty much attached to a machine. Sometimes dialysis can last up to five hours so you bring in all these books and think 'ok, I'll learn a language' but the truth is your mind doesn't work once the blood starts coming out of your body and being replaced. You're dizzy and tired getting palpatations, headaches and cramps. One of the worst things is you can only drink 4oz of fluid a day, so you're thirsty all the time. I was exhausted. There were some days when I could hardly get out of bed.
The hospital put me in touch with support but, although some people find it really helpful, I felt like I needed to not be talking about it all the time. I was trying to do other things that made me feel like I was 'still normal'.
Work was one of those things and I still tried to do hair for one or two people a week. But being in hospital meant missing days and clients weren't happy. I just couldn't work as much and on top of that, the market had collapsed. My fiancé lost his job and we ran out of money. From having all these lovely things, suddenly I was standing in a supermarket having my card rejected because I couldn't afford to buy deodorant. Our lifestyle took a nosedive. We couldn't accept invitations to go anywhere and after a while, people stopped asking. We were at each other all the time about bills and up and down to the hospital. It was all too much. After 10 years together and just four months before we were supposed to get married, we split up.
We had to rent out our house and when I moved, I sold every scrap of clothing and everything I owned, including my wedding dress. I remember saying to my Mum, I want to be free from everything, I want to have nothing so I can start from fresh.
I lost my hair and my weight dropped to five stone. After two years on dialysis, I needed a kidney badly. I was on the list, but there was no knowing when I might get a transplant and the worst thing was waiting without knowing. If I'm honest, after a year, you pretty much give up and think 'sod it, I'd actually be better off if I just didn't wake up tomorrow'. My Dad got checked, found he was a match and in 2010 we went through the surgery, but after eight months it failed and intensive care and dialysis began again.
It was hard enough being talked into doing it in the first place - when it didn't work, I felt terrible to have put him through all that. So when my Mum got checked and was also a match, I said no to her lots of times. But she and Dad were looking at me just getting worse and insisted 'just accept the help'. In 2013, I had the operation and it worked a treat, I've been fine since then.
In hospital, my sister was great and would come and try and do my hair to make me feel better. I remember thinking back then 'wouldn't it be great to be able to call someone to come in and blowdry your hair and just make you feel a little bit better about yourself?'.
That was when I had the idea for setting up Raven, my beauty app, but I didn't launch it until February last year and the response has been brilliant. The idea is that it if you can't get to the salon, the salon can come to you, even in hospital. Last week I had a client who had just come out of heart surgery, she was delighted to get her hair done for the first time in weeks!
I don't know why my kidneys failed. Doctors said maybe it was a virus or throat infection that didn't clear up and went down to my kidneys. But because of the person I've become at the end of it, I think I'm glad it happened. Maybe 'glad' isn't the right word, but I'm happy with the lessons learned. It took me a while to get back on my feet, but I did and I'm 100pc a different person now, I think for the better.
I definitely take better care of myself now, I've discovered the Headspace app and I run every day. Materialistic things don't matter to me anymore and, in work, I enjoy the challenge more than the wage packet. I'm more fearless now and I know I've fight in me that I never thought I had.