Building a good life with kidney failure

Building a boat is no mean feat and for one man it has become a three-year project which may well have saved his life. Keith Riches, a boatbuilder by trade, was diagnosed with kidney failure three years ago and has been on dialysis ever since.

Building a boat is no mean feat and for one man it has become a three-year project which may well have saved his life.

Keith Riches, a boatbuilder by trade, was diagnosed with kidney failure three years ago and has been on dialysis ever since. But his project to build himself a 24ft motor cruiser has kept him going and this week he was putting the final touches to the boat on which he hopes he will be able to take out other people suffering from kidney failure.

“I refused to give in,” said Mr Riches, 58. “It has nearly beaten me at times. But having the boat and the motivation it gives you has kept me going.”

About 14 years ago the self- employed boatbuilder was diagnosed with a bone-marrow condition that affected his spleen, which was removed weighing two kilos.

In 2003, his kidneys were found to be losing protein and finally, three years ago, he was put on dialysis.

The last three years has seen him on three types of dialysis and he has suffered problems ranging from a near nervous breakdown to an umbilical hernia. He nearly died in surgery after haemorrhaging when a pipe was fitted for one type of dialysis and had to travel into the hospital three times a week, endure long waits and had to arrange his life around the dialysis.

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But now Mr Riches is one of a few patients who have home dialysis. At Worstead, near North Walsham, he has a machine costing about £10,000. It means he can spend his four hours, three times a week, on the machine as and when it suits him. The cost of setting up the equipment and adapting a room can be as much as £25,000 but it can save money long term and patients get the back-up of staff at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

It has meant life has been so much better and by next month his cruiser, made with the help of Aquafibre at Rackheath, should be afloat.

“I have always loved the water,” he said. “I left school to become a boatbuilder and I know the Broads like the back of my hand. And I want to give something back into the system, taking other dialysis patients on my boat, because they have been so good to me at the hospital. People do not realise how much help you do get. They have been wonderful and have really helped me through this.”

He paid tribute to Sandy Lines, chairman of the Norwich charity UNKPA (United Norwich Kidney Patients Association), which organises trips to Holland every year for dialysis patients. This has meant Keith and his wife, Catherine, who works at a hotel at Wayford Bridge, have been able to go on holiday to Port Zealand, where there are dialysis machines.

t World Kidney Day is a joint initiative by the International Society of Nephrology and the International Federation of Kidney Foundations (IFKF).

If you would like to support UNKPA, contact Sandy Lines on 01603 782282.