Being diagnosed with kidney failure at the tender age of 17, my world collapsed. My dreams and aspirations of studying and practicing law seemed to have diminished behind what would be a life of treatment and drugs to keep me alive.
As a relatively fit and energetic teen, I enjoyed running with my dogs and would wake up most mornings to go for a three-mile run before school and would then walk another three miles to school. In my last year at school I began getting recurring fevers that were just never diagnosed.
This continued for another two years with my GP claiming she felt it was just the effects of me coming of age as a young woman and I would grow out of it, however this wasn’t the case as during the summer holidays of my first year of A Levels I was rushed into hospital as I was falling into a coma.
On arrival at the hospital various tests were carried out and it then transpired that I had chronic renal failure with my kidney function at a mere 4%. My parents were advised and were told they should count themselves lucky as if they had left me another few hours, they would have been preparing for my funeral.
I wasn't told of the diagnosis to begin with, my family knew but it was advised it should be kept from me and I should be focused on getting better.
Later that night I was rushed to a specialist kidney unit in an ambulance with the sirens on, I knew deep down it was serious. As soon as I got there, I was taken into surgery to have an emergency dialysis tube inserted into my neck. A procedure that would haunt me for the rest of my life as you need to be completely awake for this - I can tell you now, it's no fun.
After four days of dialysis, I began to feel better and question why I had this tube in my neck and when it would be removed.
It was then my whole family were invited in to the hospital and a renal councillor broke the news to me.
"I had a heavy feeling in my heart, like it had broken into a million pieces and all I could do was cry."
I remember her words as clear as day, "Sonia, you're very ill, your kidneys are no longer functioning and you will now be on dialysis for the rest of your life." It's really hard to explain exactly how I felt, but I had a heavy feeling in my heart, like it had broken into a million pieces and all I could do was cry.
As my family consoled me, all I could think and wish for was death, why did my mum take me to hospital that day.
With regular counselling and the support of my family and a few good friends, I learnt to accept that dialysis was going to be my only option until I received a transplant.
Luckily I only waited six months and I received a kidney transplant, the donor was a young 19-year-old that had died in a car accident. His family made that difficult decision to donate his organs and I was one of the lucky ones that received one of his kidneys.
With a transplant came further heartaches and difficulties, I was on a high dose of steroids and anti-rejection drugs, the side effects of these were weight gain amongst other undesirable effects that, for an 18-year-old were soul destroying. But at least I wasn't having dialysis three times a week for four hours each time.
I managed to complete my A Levels however after three years the transplant failed, due to my body rejecting it.
I was back on dialysis and this time a little more prepared for what was to come. I spent five years on dialysis, during this completing my degree and refusing to give up, thanks to my wonderful family and a few good friends. I then received my second transplant and felt amazing, I remember waking up from my operation just wanting to get up and go for a run.
Again the donor was a young 20-year-old that had passed from a brain haemorrhage, his family had made the difficult choice to donate his organs, to save the lives of people like me.
That transplant lasted 10 years, I travelled, I became the social outgoing person I was before my kidneys failed and I did all the things I couldn't do as a dialysis patient.
Unfortunately that transplant failed five years ago and now I am back on haemodialysis, three times and week for four hours each time.
I feel tired, lethargic, sick and generally unwell most days and tend to faint due to an abnormally low blood pressure, another side effect of kidney failure.
I have been reactivated on the transplant list, however with thousands of people waiting for a lifesaving transplant my chances of receiving another (my third) are fairly low.
I refuse to let my illness hold me back in any way and strive to be the best in my chosen career. I have steadily progressed in my career and proven my ability despite my health challenges. It is often said that people don’t understand how I can be so strong, working full-time and dealing with my health issues, my response is “I have to be strong, as it’s the only choice I have”.
Written by Sonia Gill.