“I AM just grateful I am alive and healthy,” said 25-year-old Bay resident Claudette Labuschagne who received a kidney from her mother in February after an eight-year wait for a donor.
Claudette grew up in Rustenburg before the family moved to Kirkwood when she was in Grade 8.
She was an active sportswoman until her life was turned upside down when she was 15.
“At first I thought it was an allergy. My feet started swelling, I was vomiting and I would urinate throughout the night,” said Claudette who now lives in Central.
She went to see a doctor at St George’s Hospital who sent her to Cuyler Hospital in Uitenhage. It was there the doctor discovered she had renal failure. She was then referred to the renal clinic at Livingstone Hospital.
“At one stage the doctors at Livingstone asked my mom where she wanted me to die at home or at the hospital. My mom said at home. But I got through it.”
Claudette had to drop out of school because she was too sick to carry on. Home schooling was not an option either as she was tired most of the time having been put on a peritoneal dialysis, a form of artificial kidney dialysis. She was also put on a hemodialysis, a procedure to remove waste products and free water from the blood.
“When I was put on a dialysis I started getting really sick. I lost about 30kg in a month. I was told my body was consuming my muscles for protein because I was not eating,” said Claudette.
There was a desperate attempt to find a donor and her blood was sent in for testing every six months to find a possible match.
Her mother, Wanda, was first tested as a possible donor a year after she fell ill. But protein was discovered in her urine, which meant she could not donate.
She was put on a diet and an exercise programme, and had to drink a lot of water to flush out her kidneys.
“At the end of last year my mom was tested again and everything was fine,” said Claudette. “I was very grateful because I was tired of being sick.”
Claudette now sports a tattoo of her mother’s name and the date of the transplant on her leg to remind her of the day she got her life back.
She lives with her fiance Jaco Victor, who she met just after her transplant, and relies heavily on his help.
“I just stay supportive,” said Victor.
“I know the names of all the medicines she has and I make sure she takes them every day.”
When his fiancee becomes depressed, he tells her it was an eight- year speed bump and then reminds her of all the things she should be grateful for.
When Claudette first got sick she had to go to the hospital for a checkup three times a week. Now she visits the doctor once a month and doctors say in seven years’ time she will need to do so only every six months.
After each test, she has to wait for the results and then collect the medication the next day. This will most probably be her routine for the rest of her life.
“It is a big disruption, but I have got used to it,” she says.
Having her life disrupted so early on meant she lost out on many years of her childhood.
“It frustrates me. I missed my teenage years.”
She was unable to do a lot of things like swimming in her own pool.
She said she could have finished school and gone to university.
Claudette still needs to complete grades 10 to 12 but will need financial assistance as she cannot work at the moment.
“For the last eight years I could not be normal and now I just want to be normal. Before I could not do anything, but now I have started to get active and go fishing and walking. I am starting to be positive again. I want to start my life.”
Anyone willing to help Claudette can contact Jaco on 076-520-9597.