NHS worker’s life transformed by organ donation

Gemma Sturge and her son Austin. Photo: QEH

Gemma Sturge and her son Austin. Photo: QEH - Credit: QEH

A Norfolk NHS worker has the very best reason to champion organ donation - her life was transformed when she had a kidney transplant herself.

Gemma Sturge, 33, was born with a reflux issue and was under Great Ormond Street Hospital in London when it was noted that one of her kidneys had not grown properly.

'The other one had scarring from taking on the job of two,' said Mrs Sturge, who works at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in King's Lynn.

'It meant that I would need a transplant at some point.'

After meeting husband Gary the couple moved to Norfolk, and Mrs Sturge started to see QEH nephrology consultant Dr Smita Gunda, who put her on the waiting list for a transplant.

Gemma Sturge at Addenbroke's. Photo: Gemma Sturge

Gemma Sturge at Addenbroke's. Photo: Gemma Sturge - Credit: Gemma Sturge

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She was referred to Addenbrooke's in Cambridge for dialysis and, given that she was blood group B, prepared herself for an anticipated five-year wait for a suitable donor.

But just 13 months later - in January 2012 - she received a phone call to say a match had been found she was undergoing surgery.

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She said: 'The kidney was coming from Leicester and I needed to get to Addenbrooke's right away. I had been feeling really unwell in the lead-up to it and even on the journey there I still couldn't believe the transplant was going to happen.

'When I came round after surgery, I remember the nurse asking 'how are you feeling?'. I said 'I feel great' - and I really did.'

Gemma Sturge after her surgery. Photo: Gemma Sturge

Gemma Sturge after her surgery. Photo: Gemma Sturge - Credit: Gemma Sturge

The transplant made it much easier for Mr and Mrs Sturge to consider having the family they craved and now the King's Lynn couple are proud parents to Harley, five, and two-year-old Austin.

Mrs Sturge said: 'Not only did it completely change my life for the better but it gave others life too – I now have two children.'

And her career continued on track too. A part-time bed manager at the hospital, she has worked in the NHS since 2005.

The only time off she had was for recovery from the operation.

Mrs Sturge still sees Dr Gunda for check-ups every three months, which will reduce in time to once a year.

'Who knows what my situation would have been without the transplant,' she said.

'I would have been really unwell and possibly not been able to work. I don't know if or when I would have been able to have children.'

She added: 'I like working for the healthcare system. The NHS has done so much for me. I try to promote organ donation as much as I can.'

The Sturges have built a close relationship with Paresh and Kalpna Parmar, parents of Ashni, the 12-year-old donor.

And Mrs Sturge said she will be forever thankful for the way they have helped transform her life.

• To find out more about organ donation visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk

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