Nurses gave teen a health check to reassure him. But the results were 'strange'

·5-min read
Marc Anderson first began to suspect something was wrong with his health at the age of 15. (Supplied, Marc Anderson)
Marc Anderson first began to suspect something was wrong with his health at the age of 15. (Supplied, Marc Anderson)

Marc Anderson was only 15 when he suspected that something might be wrong with his health. 

His father, Stuart was about to have major surgery and while visiting him in hospital, nurses noticed that Anderson and his younger brother Patrick were concerned. To reassure the boys, they gave them some "health checks".

"The nurses put the heart rate monitor on our fingers and took our blood pressure, but they couldn’t get a reading for me," says Anderson, now 21, from near St Andrew’s. 

"It was really strange but we didn’t think too much about it because I felt fine.

Read more: High blood pressure uncontrolled in many patients

"But two months later I was visiting my gran and we were messing around with her blood pressure kit. When I took my blood pressure, the reading was off the scale. 

"I told my mum, who reassured me that everything was fine as I had no other symptoms but after she mentioned it to her work colleagues, they suggested I see a doctor."

Within days, Anderson was being admitted to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee because doctors could not figure out why his blood pressure was staggeringly high.

Marc Anderson underwent dialysis before receiving a kidney transplant. (Supplied, Marc Anderson)
Marc Anderson underwent dialysis before receiving a kidney transplant. (Supplied, Marc Anderson)

"I was so scared. I had to stay in the hospital for five days and had so many tests and scans, but I was still a puzzle," Anderson says. 

"The doctors thought my blood pressure might be a side-effect of growth hormones that I’d had to take as a child. They managed to stabilise it with medication and for the next couple of years, I felt fine."

But by the age of 17 things started to go wrong. 

Read more: Organ donation: What are the facts?

"I was feeling nauseous all the time and was off my food and certain smells made me feel really sick," remembers Anderson. "I was bloated and puffy and felt really ill. 

"I had more tests and when the doctors realised that it was a problem with my kidney and that I might need a transplant, I was hysterical. 

"I was so scared. It seemed such a big thing. I was still so young and was scared for my future."

By the age of 19, Anderson was on dialysis, an experience he found distressing,

"I’ll never forget the day I went into hospital for what I thought was going to be a ‘small procedure’ and the nurse said: ‘You do know you’re getting dialysis today?’ Mum and I were both shocked. 

"Dialysis isn’t pleasant but within hours of having it, I felt such a vast improvement. 

"For the next two months I’d have dialysis three times a week, each taking four hours at a time. 

Read more: Two boys suffer organ failure after catching E.coli on countryside outing

"I’m really proud that I managed to keep my job and my normal life at that time. People would say to me: ‘You don’t have to come into work today if you have dialysis, but I’d say: ‘No, I want to – it’s normality’. It was so important to me."

According to the charity Kidney Research UK, there are currently about three million people living with kidney disease in the UK and 64,000 are reliant on dialysis or a transplant to stay alive. Kidney disease is on the rise and five people every week die while on the waiting list for a kidney transplant.

Watch: Four things to know about kidney health

By the end of 2018, Anderson was told he needed a kidney transplant and his father offered to be a donor but tests revealed he was not compatible. However, his mum Julie, then 47, was the perfect match.

"I was really touched as so many friends and colleagues had offered to give me one of their kidneys but when mum turned out to be the match it was such a relief," says Anderson.

"She had always done the maternal thing and if I’m really honest, I didn’t really worry about her at the time. I was so ill I could only think: ‘Why me?’ But I was so grateful to her – she was going to save my life."

Marc Anderson says he is so grateful to his mother who donated a kidney to him (Supplied, Marc Anderson)
Marc Anderson says he is so grateful to his mother who donated a kidney to him (Supplied, Marc Anderson)

Surgery took place in May 2019 and Anderson's mother was wheeled into theatre four hours before her son.

"I’d been a quivering mess beforehand but the doctors must have given me some relaxants because before I was wheeled down to surgery I was feeling very confident and cracking jokes," says Anderson. 

"Waking up afterwards, I felt pretty rough but by the next day, I was feeling so much better. Mum struggled a bit more. 

"We nicknamed the new kidney The Little Bean and agreed to all have the date of the surgery 22 May, 2019, tattooed on our arms. Dad and I have done it but mum hasn’t yet – but that’s ok. We’ve still got such a special bond."

Since coming out of surgery every step has been upwards and Anderson has not looked back.

"I’ve so much more energy and the brain fog has gone," he says. "The contrast is massive. 

"I lead a much healthier life now, including going vegetarian. Nobody expects these things to happen, but when they do, I’ve learnt to get stronger and have no regrets."

Anderson wants to raise awareness of how common kidney disease is and feels excited to get stuck into his new role as ambassador for Kidney Research UK.

"I’m proof it can strike anyone at any time. I want to give something back for all the care I’ve had and for the transplant from Mum. I’ll always be so grateful that she gave me a new lease of life."

Watch: Exercise could benefit patients with kidney disease

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