Is a normal life too much to ask for battling Faizan?
All around him Faizan Awan sees people his own age getting married and starting families. However, for Faizan, things are very different and his daily thoughts are taken up with having the dialysis that keeps him alive and hoping he receives a third kidney transplant to give him a better quality of life.
Faizan, 31, says: “My priorities are different but it is sad for me as I would love to be like my peers and doing normal things like having a relationship and starting a family.
“But instead I have to worry about being on a dialysis machine, changing my dressings and hoping I’ll get the kidney transplant I need.”
Faizan has spent his life battling kidney problems after being diagnosed with kidney reflux at birth. The condition meant urine flowed backward from the bladder to the kidneys and damaged them. Doctors tried to correct the condition when Faizan was just six weeks old but it was not successful and his kidneys ended up failing.
Faizan had his first kidney transplant at the age of three and received a kidney from a deceased person. This kidney lasted for around 10 years but then his kidneys began declining and working less and less.
Faizan explains: “I started having bouts of infections and rejections and, when I was about 13 or 14, my kidneys had completely given up. I had to start dialysis at the age of 14 and had peritoneal dialysis at home. I had the dialysis overnight for 12 hours and had to go to bed at 7pm so I would be ready for school.”
During this time, Faizan’s dad, Khalid, was getting prepared to be a donor and, in May 2000, Faizan received a kidney from his dad in a live donation.
Faizan says: “I was so grateful when my dad donated a kidney to me and it changed my life immensely.”
Faizan lived a normal and stable life after the transplant from his dad, but in the last couple of years, he started experiencing problems again and now his kidney has pretty much failed.
Faizan, who lives in Blackburn, is now back on dialysis and is now on haemodialysis, which is a process of purifying the blood.
Faizan spent six weeks at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital learning how to administer the dialysis himself so he can do it at home. He explains: “After the transplant from my dad, I lived a much more normal life. I still had to take medication and be careful around contact sports but apart from that, life was great.
“I went to Beardwood High School and, after finishing, I began applying for colleges. But then I started picking up lots of infections and ended up getting ill with meningitis.
“I started college later than people my own age and studied film and media production at Blackburn College.
“After that, I took a year out to save up for university and did summer jobs. I then went to Sheffield Hallam University and studied media production and my first year went swimmingly. However, in my second year things started going wrong with my kidney again and I started getting infections. I ended up withdrawing from university and being admitted to hospital.”
Faizan was put on emergency dialysis and medics managed to slow the deterioration of his kidney but the damage was irreversible.
Faizan went back on dialysis in December and is now on the organ donation waiting list for a third transplant.
Faizan says: “I could not go back to university so I started volunteering at Blackburn Youthzone and have done my youth work qualifications.
“I am hoping to do this work properly when I have a kidney that allows me to hold down a full-time job.
“I am on haemodialysis four times a week for about three hours a time. Unfortunately, the fistula in my arm decided to block up so I had to go into Royal Preston Hospital after a week and I now have a line in my neck for the dialysis instead. I am having issues sleeping as it is weird trying to sleep with the neck-line in. I also suffer from achy bones.”
Despite everything he has been through, Faizan refuses to feel sorry for himself and wants to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation – particularly among the Asian community where donation levels are low. Faizan says: “Doctors have told me that, due to a build-up of antibodies because of my previous transplants and because of the lack of donations from the Asian community, they estimate the wait this time will be approximately eight years.
“It just seems like every so often my life just stops and it goes at a much slower and cautious speed to other people my age. But I have got used to that and have accepted my life is going to be different. I am grateful I am still alive and hope it will be third time lucky with my transplant.”
Faizan’s mum, Parveen, works hard to raise awareness of kidney donation and runs the Blackburn and District Kidney Support group.
Faizan himself has recently joined the committee for the Lancashire and South Cumbria kidney patients association.
He says: “I think there are a lot of myths and a lack of understanding in the BME community about organ donation and some people think it is against the religion. Whatever god you believe in says you should help your fellow man.
“The way I see it is if you were in a similar situation, would you accept an organ? If you would, it is only right that you should be prepared to donate, too. The more we can get people to talk about the issue, the more we can educate them and raise awareness. Those people who have made the decision to donate need to let their family know their wishes as they can still say no.
“Conversation is key.”