Schoolgirl Zoe to receive kidney transplant from her mother Jill


Young badminton player Zoe Buchanan is to undergo a kidney transplant next month, with the replacement organ donated by her mother.

Zoe, 14, from Lerwick, has suffered from reduced renal function all her life, but in February last year was diagnosed with end stage renal failure, meaning she has had to have daily dialysis treatment. However the new kidney from mum Jill Bentley will change her life for the better.

She said: “I’m on dialysis every night, I don’t get out very much because I’m always on dialysis. It’s tiring. I don’t sleep very much, there’s always alarms going off.” As the dialysis is done at home, this means very little sleep for Jill, too.

Although she has played sport “just always”, following her diagnosis in February Zoe said she had seen a big drop in her stamina which she said was “not as good as it used to be”.

However this hasn’t kept her from her sporting activities. As well as badminton, which she began playing aged eight, Zoe is a keen football player and enjoys stunt biking on her BMX.

Aged 11, she was accepted into the badminton junior development squad and has been competing ever since. Last weekend she took part in the inter-county under-15 badminton competition against Orkney, and is due to compete in the under-15 open badminton championships this weekend.

Keeping up her training for such competitions has been exhausting however, and the new kidney will mean an end to her nightly dialysis treatments.

Mother and daughter will be undergoing the long operations – which are expected to last around four or five hours for Zoe and a bit less for her Jill – on 24th March.

They will be in separate hospitals for the procedures. Giving her daughter a kidney was something Jill said she was looking forward to.

She said: “I can’t wait … not ‘can’t wait’ in the sense of being cut up or anything, but I can’t wait to hopefully make Zoe feel better.

“We’ll be away for a minimum of eight weeks, full stop, as the risk of rejection is bigger soon after the operation … [Zoe will] be back on her feet before I will because my operation is bigger than hers, but hopefully by the summer.”

Zoe said she was most looking forward to the fact that after the operation, as a transplant patient, she will be able to take part in the Transplant Games.

Held all over Britain since 1978 by the charity Transplant Sport UK, which aims to raise awareness of the need for organ donation in the UK and worldwide, the games are open to anyone who has had a transplant. The games’ aim is to aid transplant patients’ recovery and help them make friends with people who have undergone similar experiences.

Jill said hearing about the games made the whole situation a bit easier for Zoe: “It was such a shock when she was diagnosed and it all happened so very quickly and then all of a sudden she was going to theatre.

“It was all doom and gloom, and then somebody mentioned that fact that after the transplant she’ll have 100 per cent function, which she’s never ever had all her life, and she’ll be eligible to take part in these games.”

While she will undergo her transplant operation in Glasgow, she has been receiving treatment in Aberdeen. Given Zoe is so sporty, there is now a dispute as to which hospital she will represent, as both want her on their team.

Zoe said: “The transplant co-ordinator, Diane King, runs it for Glasgow and at the moment Glasgow and Aberdeen are fighting over me, which is quite funny.”

While Zoe is looking forward to the junior games, there are also the World Transplant Games, which are held bi-annually in various countries around the world and are open to all transplant patients over 16. Last year they were held in Australia, and this year will take place in Sweden in June.

“She has that to focus on as a goal. She has to be transplanted six months, for her fitness, but she’ll be the member of a fairly exclusive club,” Jill said, joking. “And if it’s somewhere really exotic you have to take your donor with you!”

Her love of sport has clearly given Zoe a means for coping with her condition, which she said her teachers and coaches had supported her with.

She said: “The teachers are good, they’ve let me sleep in a couple of classes! And the coaches, of course you have massive warm ups, I can’t do that anymore as there’s no stamina left so I’ve got my own warm up.

“Sometimes I have to go to school a little bit later, because just recently we’ve had later trainings, it’s been 6pm till 9pm, and I’d have to go on it [dialysis] at half nine, so it would be on it a little bit later in the morning.”

Importantly, however, Zoe said she doesn’t receive any special treatment, and carrying on with her sporting interests gives her something to look forward to and also a reason to get better.

Zoe said: “Mam’s always like, ‘You’re not going to badminton training if you don’t go to school today’ so I think, hmm, I’ll go to school! It’s not a threat, it’s more like trying to help me as it’s hard [for me] to get up.”

Jill said: “It’s hard when you’ve only had two or three hours [sleep] but what she doesn’t realise is I’ve only had two or three hours too, and I’d rather stay in bed too, but we can’t do that.”

In the meantime Zoe will be keeping up her badminton training. She said: “I have the under-15s open championships this weekend, so I’m kind of hoping I do well in that.”

Zoe added: “There’s people that I know that have had this and they just sit about and think ‘I can’t do that, I’m ill’, but what’s the point?”

Asked what her proudest sporting moment was so far, Zoe said: “It would probably be this year, getting in to the team, because I really didn’t think I’d get into the Shetland team, because of the terrible year – compared to [the standard] I was, it’s really bad. But when you think about it, it’s brilliant considering what I’m going through.”

Jill said: “The whole thing about Zoe is she doesn’t want her illness to affect or stop her doing anything, so it’s made her more determined to do things.”


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