Ron and Linda
Linda and Ron Lambden - Dartmouth's Town Sergeant
Linda and Ron Lambden - Town Sergeant
Dartmouth’s Town Sergeant Ron Lambden and his wife Linda talk about how they are passionate supporters of Organ Donation – after Linda’s life was saved thanks to Ron donating his kidney – to someone else.
As I sit in a comfy seat in a hotel chatting away to Linda and Ron Lambden on the 47th Anniversary of their first date, it occurs to me you’d be forgiven for thinking that this couple hadn’t got a care in the world - aside from Linda’s bad back they are doing well.
But you’d be wrong in that assumption.
Linda and Ron have lived through incredibly hard times. Linda has lived with constant pain and faced death on more than one occasion – and they have come through it thanks to a remarkable ‘Pairing’ system run by the transplant service.
Linda was born with only one functioning kidney and yet has lived a happy, normal life. But a number of infections over a period of years – known as Pyelonephritis - damaged her remaining kidney so badly that five years ago she began to fall gravely ill.
Three years ago Linda’s kidney was functioning so poorly – at 5 percent of what it should have been – she was put onto dialysis. This is a machine that does the same job as the kidney: removing waste from the blood.
It’s not something that is undertaken lightly.
“It’s a very difficult thing to be on dialysis, for so many reasons,” said Linda. “I had to travel to hospital three times a week, spending three and a half hours at least on the machine each time, but with the travel and sometimes waiting for the machine to be free you can be out for eight or more hours. They only put you on dialysis as a very last resort so you are very ill indeed – it completely takes it out of you. I would just sleep when I wasn’t on the dialysis. I also had a number of troubles with the veins they use for it, so have had some very painful, very difficult times.”
Meal times are also difficult when you are suffering kidney problems, Ron said.
“Linda couldn’t drink much and we had to work out exactly what was in every meal as the kidney couldn’t cope with too much of certain things, like potassium,” he said. “I was watching my wife waste away before my eyes. It’s terrible to feel so powerless to help someone you love.”
Linda and Ron started to look at the possibility of a transplant – each of their three children offered to be tested to see if they were compatible, but Linda refused to accept organs from them as she did not want the operation to affect their lives.
Ron then stepped forward to be tested.
“Part of me wonders why I didn’t think of it before,” he said. “I was sat in our house one day when we were discussing it and I just said: “I could donate my kidney!” My kidney WAS a match but there were a few issues with antibodies, which we were told were manageable and would not stop the transplant.”
The date for their operations was set for February 2011. Everything seemed to be going well.
Then they heard that Linda’s consultant had cancelled the operation.
“She felt that with my history of infections the anti-body problem would actually be very dangerous and make it very risky indeed,” said Linda. “We were devastated. To get your hopes up that the pain and difficulties we had been going through would be over and then have it taken away at the last minute was hard to take – although we totally understood it was done for the right reasons.”
The situation was now even graver – dialysis is only a short-term solution and those undergoing it often suffer heart troubles. Linda needed a transplant and she needed it soon. During this time a number of the people they knew at the dialysis unit in Edginswell, Torquay passed away, bringing home to them how serious things were.
A chance of receiving a kidney from a terminally ill patient was lost because the disease the patient had had damaged their kidney’s too badly. It was more crushing disappointment for the couple.
“We then heard through the transplant service of a “Pairing” programme. Couples – or friends or family members – can sign up if one wishes to donate to the other but they don’t have a match good enough to do a transplant.
“The transplant service then search for another couple in the same boat. So we needed a couple where the person needing the transplant matched Ron and the person donating matched me – it seemed so unlikely, but then we heard they’d found someone.”
Linda and Ron were matched with a couple in the north of England – the scheme is run anonymously - and a date was set for the transfer.
Then they received a call. The person in the couple needing a new kidney had become so ill they needed a blood transfusion. If the transfusion didn’t work, doctors didn’t think they could make a transplant without them being in danger of death from the operation.
Linda and Ron waited anxiously to see if they would have to deal with massive disappointment again.
“But then we got word the man had improved and the transplant was back on,” said Linda.
On August 30 2011 Ron went to Derriford Hospital and had his kidney removed – which was then sent to Manchester – at the same time a woman in Manchester had her kidney out and it was couriered to Plymouth. In the afternoon Linda was wheeled into surgery – following her kidney into the operating theatre!
Ron’s operation and recovery went like a dream – he walked out of the hospital after three days and has suffered no ill effects.
It was a different story for Linda.
“Afterwards it was very tough,” she said. “I had what they call a ‘sleeper’ kidney: it wasn’t rejected but wasn’t working properly for a few months. They had to put fluid into me to help it work more efficiently and I blew up like a balloon, and was pushed around in wheelchair! However, despite everything I’d do it again like a shot because it has given me my life back – the last eight months on Dialysis were horrendous and we now have more of a normal life again.”
Ron said: “I try and tell everyone I meet about the scheme and what a difference it’s made to us - I thought I was losing my wife and this has now given us our life back. I can’t believe so few of the population are on the waiting list for transplants – it is so important.”
First Published July 2012 By The Dart