New life thanks to wife’s kidney

Peter Young has a new lease on life thanks to his wife Pauline who donated one of her kidneys. Photo Nick Krause

At 74, Peter Young is a dynamo. His community work is prolific. He is ubiquitous and everyone knows him within the community.

It took a dicey operation to bring him to a stop, albeit temporarily.

Young, serving his second term on the Howick Local Board (Botany subdivision), is recovering from a kidney transplant. You’d never know it though.

Until the operation on March 17, St Patrick’s Day, his survival depended on dialysis. As his condition deteriorated, his only option was a kidney transplant. As Young explains, a family member would always be the first to approach for reasons of compatibility.

The universe had other ideas.

Enter his wife Pauline, 71, who volunteered to be tested to be a donor for her husband.

“She said, ‘Oh, can I try?’,” says Young.

“Usually, it would be the son or daughter or father or mother. She said my son is young, he has a family.

“My wife gave 22 vials of blood to ensure a match with my blood and (there was) also other checking – scans, x-rays to make sure she’s a healthy lady and she can donate to me. It’s not an easy process.”

“I’m lucky she gave me the kidney that changed my life back again.”

Young’s problems began 10 years ago, initially with kidney stones, then gout. It wasn’t until just a few years ago he was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD). High blood pressure followed.

CKD is divided into five stages based on levels of kidney function with five being kidney failure or close to failure.

“I noticed it three years ago it (kidneys) go to level three,” says Young.

“My doctor said it will go slowly down to level five. There is no cure. When you get to level five, you have to go to dialysis.”

Dialysis worked, however other readings brought matters to a head. His eGFR (estimated glomerular filtration rate, which is a measurement of how well the kidneys are cleaning the blood), was approaching critical levels.

“It was March 17 – they reached the point. Around 15 they prepare for the transplant. When it gets to 8 it’s getting really dangerous so I had to do it fast,” Young says.

“In the morning my wife went to the hospital, they took her kidney out and then after four hours, I would go to surgery.”

After the kidney transplant, Young was very pale and he was fatigued. With a compromised immune system, he spent three months keeping away from people, easier around March thanks to Covid-19 lockdown.

He was able to fulfil his local board duties via Skype meetings for two months.

It could so easily have gone badly though.

Last November he broke his leg in a fall on the stairs at home. Already tired, with his body trying to keep up, he was worried he might not heal enough for the March operation.

“Now, I’m feeling I’m 50 years old … I look younger. At 4.30am I wake up and work until midday. After lunch, I take a nap and then work until 9 o’clock,” says Young.

“I’m organising more and more activities. Last Sunday we had a meeting in Botany Library and the next day I organised the musical festival which was very successful.”

And there are the regular newsletters for the Botany and Flat Bush Ethnic Association which he founded four years ago.

“Winter time we have a lot of projects,” he says.

Local board duties include cultural activities and events, particularly through Botany Library. “We’re always looking for more volunteers for the library,” says Young, who lives on Point View Drive.

Meanwhile, his wife – who shies away from publicity – is the picture of health.

“She only had one cut and is healing fine. Doctors say maybe her life will be two years shorter but she doesn’t mind so long as we can live together,” says Young, who in 2016 finally made it onto the local board after his third attempt.

The compatibility too is uncanny. “People say we did a lot of good things – it must be good karma for us.

“My wife was a very good motivator for me. She was so focused. She was determined to give me a kidney.

“Many people are surprised that she’s over 70. She has such a strong body – she’s been a vegetarian for 30 years.

“She’s a volunteer at the Buddhist temple. She is so focussed on Buddhism and I focus on the community – our minds are our will power – the will power of being healthy and happy – she has the will power of Buddhism – Buddhism is to give – she doesn’t mind to give.”