A year after Hospice Payroll Administrator Jacqui Dunphy donated one of her kidneys to her then 10-year-old son Bailey in May 2014, both her and Bailey took part in the British Transplant Games. It was an experience they both thoroughly enjoyed and they’ve taken part in the annual games ever since as part of the Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) Renal Team. This year, at the games in Birmingham, they both walked away with gold medals in their respective events and Bailey is on course to compete in the World Transplant Games in Newcastle next year.
Here Jacqui explains how she and Bailey have “turned lemons into lemonade”:
“I’ve taken part in the British Transplant Games for the past four years as part of the GOSH Renal Team. This year I won gold in the living donor relay.
“My son Bailey, 14, who competes in the 100m, 200m, relay and long jump, took gold in the 200m and silver in the 100m and relay. I was so proud of him after everything that he’s been through.
“We started taking part after I gave Bailey a kidney in 2014. He developed e coli sepsis from a UTI infection which turned into a blood infection. He was on dialysis for 10 months during which time I went for tests to see whether I was a suitable donor. It turned out that I was a good match and the transplant went ahead in May 2014. It worked straight away and he responded really well.
“When Bailey was ill, it turned out that the nurse who looked after him was the team leader of the GOSH Renal Team and she told us about the British Transplant Games. Bailey immediately asked whether he could take part when he was better so in August 2015 I took him along. As I was already a runner, albeit over long distances rather than short, I decided to participate alongside him as a living donor.
“In the first games I took part in I took gold in the living donor relay. Everyone was amazed I did so well, it was such a good feeling after going through such a difficult time. I am the only woman on the relay team - my team mates are all men and I think it helps that we are all quite competitive.
“Bailey won bronze in the 100m that first year. It gave him the confidence to want to go back again. Since then he has gone on to become the one to beat, particularly in the 200m. He can be quite self-conscious about his scar but at the games everyone there has a scar so he doesn’t feel out of place.
“I love going to the games. The GOSH Renal Team are like a family. There are 14 children, who have all needed kidneys for one reason or another, along with their families and supporters. We get together throughout the year to socialise but we don’t do any formal training. We just come together on the day and do it.
“As a team we are very close. When you go through something as traumatic as nearly losing a child, which we all have, you form a strong bond as it’s difficult for other people to understand what you’ve been through.
“Life is now gradually starting to get back to normal. When Bailey became ill I had to give up work as he had to do dialysis at home every day and it is very time consuming. Fortunately, he was able to stay at home rather than go into hospital and so was able to carry on going to school.
“For that first year after the transplant I was utterly consumed by it. I was fanatically calling the hospital for his blood results and could never properly relax.
“After about a year I stopped being quite so fanatical and started thinking about getting my life back. I started working part time at the Hospice in September 2017. After all that we’d been through as a family, I knew that I wanted to work in a caring environment as I wanted to give something back.
“I’ll be forever grateful to the nurses and medical professionals who looked after Bailey – they saved my son’s life and without them he would not have had the chance to have a life.
“Although he is now stable, it’s still a bit like being on a roller coaster as he will never be 100% and he will need to have his bloods checked regularly for the rest of his life but at least now he can go out and live his life and start getting back to normal.
“He’s now looking forward to competing in the World Transplant Games in Newcastle next year and I can’t wait to see him in his GB top! We are all so proud of him. At 5ft 8ins he is already taller than me and to look at him you wouldn’t think there had ever been anything wrong with him. We’ve never treated him as a victim and we’ve always impressed upon him that his transplant should not define him and that he can go on to achieve whatever he wants to.
“It just goes to show, it doesn’t matter what life throws at you, you can beat anything if you put your mind to it.”