A kidney transplant patient has celebrated the 20th anniversary of his operation by thanking the consultant who has helped keep him healthy over the last 20 years.
Ken Jones from Llanberis marked the occasion by going on a five mile walk with his consultant from Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor, Mr Mahdi Jibani, and members of staff from the hospital’s renal team.
They were accompanied by the Merseyside surgeon who performed Ken’s transplant operation two decades ago at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, Mr Ajay Sharma, who Ken says gave him “a new life”.
Father-of-two Mr Jones, said he wanted celebrate the landmark and thank those who have kept him healthy by showing that 20 years on, he is still able to exercise.
The retired civil servant, who founded both the annual Snowdon Race and the Snowdon Marathon, completed a three mile walk through Llanberis slate quarry with the two doctors, hospital staff and his friends and family.
Ken said: “My kidney transplant operation was on June 11th 1996 at the Royal Hospital in Liverpool. It was my second transplant operation as I had a new kidney in 1990 that survived for three years.
“I was unbelievably lucky as I only waited six weeks for the first transplant and three weeks for the second. Some people can be on dialysis for nine or 10 years waiting for a new kidney.
“People say a kidney transplant saves a life, it doesn’t, it creates a new life. People can live on dialysis it’s just so much better having a working kidney.”
Ken is secretary of Ysbyty Gwynedd’s Kidney Patient Association (KPA), which has raised more than £300,000 in the last 18 years since it was set up, and helped set up North Wales’ first acute dialysis service at Bangor.
Ken says he doesn’t know why his first kidney transplant failed but anti-rejection drugs, which he takes twice a day, have improved over the years.
He said: “A lot of kidneys and other transplant organs failed then but things have improved with better anti-rejection drugs.
“It’s like having a splinter in your finger, your body recognises it as something that shouldn’t be there and wants it out.
“It’s the same with a transplant organ whether it’s a kidney, lungs, heart or whatever. The body tries to reject it as it sees it as being a foreign body, one that shouldn’t be there.
“I take anti-rejection drugs every 12 hours. People often ask whether I ever forget but I don’t.
“What I can say is that my kidney function is the same as it was following the transplant 20 years ago, and that is really remarkable.
“It’s given me a new life.”
And Ken says he fully supports Wales’ new presumed consent laws when it comes to the donation of organs.
He added: “I do know who donated my kidney but the family don’t want any publicity.
“I can never put into words how much their kindness has helped and how much the kidney has meant to me.
“It’s 20 years on and I feel I need to celebrate, hence the walk.”
Ken, who has a hereditary polycystic kidney disease, has been married to his wife Marian for 28 years. They have a son, Gwion, daughter Llinos and grandson Gruffudd, aged two.
Ken said: “We are so lucky to have Ysbyty Gwynedd’s Renal Unit, it really is leading the way in the UK. We have new modern buildings and the staff are second to none.”
Ysbyty Gwynedd’s lead renal consultant and clinical director of unscheduled care, Mahdi Jibani joined Ken Jones for the walk and says the hospital’s Kidney Patient Association (KPA) is remarkable.
He said: “Ken is the life and soul of the Association and, along with others, is part of a very hard working team.
“In fact in my 30 plus years in the field of renal medicine I have never known anything like what we have in North Wales.
“It’s very much like an extended family with patients their relatives, hospital staff, consultants and transplant surgeons all playing an active role. And the benefits of that very close working relationship are immense.”
He added: “The Association organises several walks each year and it seemed like a great idea to celebrate Ken’s transplant of 20 years ago.
“Ken is correct when he says dialysis and transplant medicine has changed.
“It really has but we have been helped by the work of the KPA which has, over the years raised a vast amount of money, more than £300,000 which has all been ploughed back into patient care.
“Thanks to the KPA we were able to set up an acute dialysis service at Bangor, which was the first in North Wales.
“The KPA also assists some patients with travel expenses and even hotel bills for relatives. It’s direct funding that supports patients at a time when they need it most.”
He added: “And of course organ transplant techniques have changed and come on in leaps and bounds and not just when it comes to kidney transplants. We are now able to transplant working kidneys from live relatives or generous donors.
“We still have the option of using donated organs from a deceased person and with the Welsh Government bringing in presumed consent we have more organs we can transplant and that has to be better for patients.”
Mr Ajay Kumar Sharma who is Consultant Surgeon in Transplantation and also Director of Core Surgical Training for Merseyside, carried out Ken Jones’ kidney transplant 20 years ago.
He said: “I have been participating in walks at Snowdon along with Ken Jones and other transplant patients for a number of years.
“Ken is one of the most inspiring figures, I have ever met. He has done so well after transplant.
“Ken does so much for the Renal Unit and for patients. The magnitude is just astounding. He is one of the great silent workers who sets example by regular walk of three or four miles every day.
“He was my last transplant patient as a registrar in 1996.
“I have been in surgery since January 1, 1986; and there is not a single day when I say to myself, ‘I’m really tired of working as a surgeon’.
“The truth is working with patients who are as inspiring as Ken makes my job really worthwhile.”