Kidney Heroes

Mariann’s Transplant Journey

Meet Mariann Alexander, an extraordinary woman battling kidney disease, whose transplant journey is one of great resilience and heartfelt sentiment. Mariann persevered through eight challenging years of declining health and energy, followed by 15 months of undergoing dialysis, before receiving what she describes as her "new life".

Her journey wasn't without setbacks. After experiencing the disappointment of a promised donor kidney falling through, Mariann's hope for a return to normality seemed dim. However, a glimmer of hope emerged when she recalled a promise made by her Uncle Jeff.

Mariann, who works as a school cleaner, reflected on her experience:

“I called him. I was worried it would be a difficult conversation, but he didn’t hesitate to help me. We were close before but we’re even closer now, and he’s my hero.”

By 2012, Mariann’s kidney function had declined significantly, meaning she had the transplant at Oxford’s Churchill Hospital, soon after.

Recalling the transplant and her recovery journey, Mariann said:

“It went well. I was out of hospital in a fortnight and back at work a few months later, so life really did begin at 40 for me.

“I suddenly had energy again and felt like a huge cloud of uncertainty had been removed as I’m a bit of a worrier. My only regret was that my dad died four months before I had the transplant and never got to see my new life.”

Although her rare type of kidney disease – that causes scarring in the organ’s filters – was not genetic, her sister has also undergone two transplants.

Now living in Torquay, Devon, Mariann acknowledges that the journey post-transplant isn't always smooth, especially with the need for careful monitoring of medications to prevent sickness. Nevertheless, she emphasises that the transplant has gifted her a remarkable sense of freedom and renewed hope!

She said:

“I don’t take anything for granted now. I treasure my friends in my Torquay Academy cleaning team who are a constant support, and I can’t say enough about the renal nurses and counsellors. I owe everything to my Uncle Jeff. We chat on the phone a lot as he’s up in London. He was 60 when he donated his kidney and I owe him everything. That’s why I nominated him as my hero.”

Mariann’s uncle, Jeff, added:

“When Mariann asked me, I didn’t even think about it. I said yes straight away. If this award encourages one other person to do the same, that’s marvellous. I don’t regret it for a minute. It brought Mariann back to life.”


Below is a poem, written by Mariann’s uncle, Jeff Edmunds, capturing Mariann’s life with kidney disease and the pair’s unique transplant experience:

What’s A Kidney For? – A poem by Jeff Edmunds

What’s a kidney for?
It’s for giving, because yours weren’t forgiving.
The heavy wheeled suitcase thing - the dialysis machine you lugged
on the train all the way to your mum’s
And bags of liquid in boxes delivered and piled up at her house for you
to use. I realised I had a job to do
I had to give my kidney to you
I heard the news and sympathised but when I saw…
You were at your sister’s wedding, talking from the pulpit, ashen grey, gasping out the words you wanted to say
When I looked into the weakening light in your beautiful eyes, I knew what I had to do.
I had made the right decision, to give my kidney to you
Such a simple thing, really, but complicated in its arrangement
And guess what? We were a pretty good match.
After so much disappointment and let down, you made a simple plea on
the phone. I didn’t even think about it. I said “yes” straight away.
My mind was clear as a bell, born for that day.
Suddenly I was a patient in waiting: lots of questions and testing.
I had to attend these on my own.
We were treated separately, in case of any coercion.
Twenty-five blood samples. Yes, Tony Hancock, fairly nearly an armful!
Nuclear Medicine, scary stuff I was injected and scanned thoroughly but
warned not to use the nearest toilet – hardly convenient!
The interviews were brief but thorough and finally, I signed to give my
kidney away
Suddenly I felt home and free, like an athlete way ahead of the pack, running home to the tape, even though it meant much more to you than it did to me.
That night before, sleeping on your floor wasn’t the best way to prepare, but the day went by like a blur.
That morning, I was on my own, being processed and soon drawn away into dreamless sleep.
I agreed to give my kidney away to another, if the transplant was unviable that day, but it was, and we were two wounded but relieved patients.
All I had to do was get better after and enjoy the hospitality. My PCA was soon snatched away. I could have cried after it, and when my catheter was removed, it was like a bottle brush being pulled out:
Oh brother! How I wanted to shout
It was nothing compared to what you went through, but you gradually got better…
All the endless sampling and immersion in blood chemistry, delayed healing and infusion therapy…
Then finally, you made your best move: leaving your dingy damp flat, to go and live with your mother.
What’s a kidney for?
The love you have for another…

© Jeffery A. Edmunds, 3rd October, 2016