14 November 1974 at the tender age of 21 I am sitting in the office of my then Renal consultant, one Mr Williams. This farmer like man had a brilliant bed side manner and a nice way of delivering not so good news. He looked up from my treatment notes, smiled, looked me in the eyes over the top of his half rimmed glasses and said ”Well, Mr Bennett it appears that we need to remove your right kidney, and as soon as possible.
The kidney is deceased and slowly killing you. What does that mean? You can survive quite normally with one healthy kidney, but your remaining kidney is only working at 68%, which means that you will need dialysis at some point in the future. As for your life expectancy, well you will be very lucky to reach the age of 60, any questions?” Before I could even open my mouth to speak, he was gone, leaving me there a broken man.
I will always remember that day in 1974, but life goes on, as they say! One kidney down, eventually back to work, married, 2 wonderful children Stephanie and Shaun, plenty of fishing and shooting, life was great! At this stage of my life I was fishing for some of the top teams in the country, winning, giving talks, attending sponsors trade shows, demonstrating fishing tackle and generally having a great time. I was so busy for such a long time that I ignored the obvious signs that my health was suffering.
At this time in 1982 I was enjoying my perfect job driving HGV 1 lorries, my job was to deliver bacon/ham joints to Scotland’s supermarket depot’s. The downside being that I had to spend 3 or 4 nights away each week, which meant that I was missing seeing my kids growing up, but the interest rates were 18% and I needed to do the endless hours, just to survive.
In 1985 my world fell apart, I collapsed one day at work and lost the use of my legs for a few weeks, that was the end of my working life, because my remaining kidney was failing fast. We went as a family from earning very good money, to living on benefits, I can assure you that this is not an easy transition to make, but when you have no option, what do you do? You adjust!
1990 was about the time that dialysis was first mentioned, this was something that I feared more than all of the other treatments that I had been already been through, more than anything it was the fear of the unknown. Yes, you see the pictures, yes you meet the nurses, yes you visit the treatment wards, but no-one warns you about the pain, the fear and trepidation, the screams of seriously ill patients as the nurse’s search for veins in reluctant fragile bodies.
Then in 1992 the big day arrived, my first dialysis session. iI was horrendous, I had been through a lot in my life, biopsies, investigations into every orifice of my body, lots of stays in hospital, forming of fistula’s but this was something else, it was an experience that will always stay with me. As with everything in life, you adjust, you settle down to routine, this was going to be it for the rest of my life, 1 hour’s drive, 4 hours treatment, 1 hour’s drive back home, 4 days every week. That is unless I was lucky enough to receive a kidney transplant! All you ever hear about transplants are the good things, the successful outcomes, the way that this will change your life, yeah right!
I looked at patients, young and old, sick and dying, just laying there, staring at the white ceiling for hours on end, as if they had nothing to live for, not me! I decided to do something about it. A very good friend of mine Keith Arthur one said to me, “Always turn a negative into a positive” It was at this time that I began my charity work, I raised money for the KPA [kidney patients association] air ambulance, St Richards hospice and many other local charities. I think that being quite well known [in certain quarters] having the right contacts, being a good-organiser, all of these things helped in this troubled period of my life.
Meals out for 120 anglers with a full comedy drag show [performed by yours truly], covers band, transport to and from the venue, the whole evening was perfect, I loved every minute of the organisational side. Fishing contests, night sea-fishing trips for 40 blokes, anything and everything to raise some money.
I mentioned my comedy drag shows, this is a list of my alter-egos, Dolly Sparton, Shirley Trashey, Tina Burner, Barb Bighand and of course Marilyn Munroe, yes, I had the dress and the fans, my chosen song for the blond bombshell was, *I want to be loved by you* I also did a few other minor stars and a great Freddie Mercury, [or so I was told] the one where he dressed as a woman in a short black skirt, I even had the exact same hoover as the one that he had. Remember the song, *I want to break free* I had such fun making people laugh, what made the whole drag thing funnier is my body shape, let’s just say that I am vertically challenged, fat and bald.
I had a few other strings to my bow in my quest to raise even more money, I sang with local bands, stand-up comedian, [this was done using some of the true funny stories from my book, A Badsey Boy]. Talks to visiting angling clubs on our local river and meals out but my favourite had to be doing 40s nights at old peoples homes, dressed in top hat and tails, I would sing my heart out. Just watching the residents linking arms and singing along, what’s not to like?
But then it happened, my first failed transplant, 2007. I had been called in a few times previously, prepped for the operation, only to be told at the last minute that the donated kidney was not viable. This was a very bad period in my life, no-one warns you what happens when a transplant [that you had been praying for, because this operation was going to be life changing, no more dialysis, less hospital visits, holidays, being able to do things with the family, and to lead a relatively normal life again] fails after only a few hours. One of the worst memories at this time was being in ICU and then placed on a ward with patients that had received successful transplants, asking yourself, “why did this happen to me?”
The darkness descended very quickly, so much so that I literally gave up on life. After a heart to heart talk with my wife and teenage kids, they all agreed to support me, and whatever I decided, it would be ok! What you have to remember is this, my kids have only ever known me to be ill, they knew how much of a toll dialysis, traveling and treatments was taking out of me.
I was still in hospital at this point and had lots of thinking time, maybe too much? I made the decision to write a short story book, it was for the grand children that I would never see, I called the book, *A walk with grandad* it was a simple little illustrated book about a small child walking along our local river, hand in hand with their grand-parent, with some of my poems and natures wanders, things that they would see along the way.
I was very pleased with the end result, and had just 40 copies printed for family and friends, [since that time I have sold literally hundreds of copies] the thought of me ending my life had diminished at this time. What you have to remember is this, I am still travelling all over the country giving talks, still doing full drag shows, singing my heart out and still competing at the top level in my much loved sport fishing, [and still winning just as many contests, as I had been before] still organising nights out, busy, busy! My daughter was now happily married and my son had started his own business by this time. Shaun had surprised my wife and I by travelling to many far-off lands, all on his own, a back-pack being his only luggage.
Then my second failed transplant comes along, again lasting only a few hours. My time in ICU this time was bad, very bad, so much so that the darkness had returned with a vengeance, only this time there was no coming back. My nurse Katy May Harris was my rock, behind closed curtains we cried together, she held my hand for hours on end, she talked, comforted me, but to be honest, I was a broken man, I felt that there was no coming back from this. Do you believe in miracles?
I could not take anymore and made the decision to go home, refuse any further treatment, and wait for nature to take its natural course. The day of my discharge finally arrived, I had said my goodbyes to doctors and staff, everything was now in place for when my life ended. My wife of so many happy years and daughter came to collect me from the hospital, they pushed me to the car in a wheelchair, once in the car my wife left to return the wheelchair, it was at this point that my daughter Stephanie said these life-saving words, “I’m preggers dad!”
What can I say, my granddaughter Clementine saved my life!
I am blessed with a beautiful second granddaughter Beatrice, my girls are my life, to think that I might have missed out in just knowing them, just doesn’t even bare thinking about.
My life has now become settled as I slip quietly and gracefully into old age, I am still receiving dialysis 4 days every week, 52 weeks of the year and I still travel 1 hour each way, what has changed, I am now an author!!!!!!! My life of match-fishing is finally over, I do manage to fish one day In August annually, no more singing, stand up, drag. My wife made the decision one day and threw all of my dresses [except Marilyn] into the rubbish bin.
At this point in my life’s adventure, I think that it is only fair that I mention a bit more of my medical history, that way you the reader will appreciate how I intend ending this rendition of my life.
Sepsis x 2
Mini strokes x 6
Fitted stents in my chest x 36
Fitted stent in my heart x 1
Formed Fistula’s. 14
Dialysis lines, too many to even think about.
Low blood pressure. [falling over low]
I consume 26 pills every day.
I have sleep apnoea [I wear a mask in bed every night, with air blowing into my nostrils, because I stop breathing when I am asleep, up to 50 times]
My time on Dialysis is now spent writing, it has been 6 years now since I thought that my life was over. Long gone now since the day that I gave up on everything, but to be honest, I am busier now than I have ever been, see below.
My list of self-published books.
The naughty Gnome -2 – 3. A trilogy of very funny stories about a 3 inch tall gnome, that was given life by a fairy after he rescued her from danger.
Philomena and the stolen kiss. Fairies.
Philomena and the Sleeping Princess. Fairies.
Zolem. Scary wolf book.
A walk with Grandad.
Thumbprint in the Dome.
The Ghosts of level Nine. This book received 5 star reviews on Goodreads.
Into the void. Adult only!!!
The Intelligent Gardener. Adult only!!!!!!
A Badsey Boy.
A lifetime of Match-fishing.
5 Youtube videos.
Some of my friends say that I have had a crap life, I disagree with them totally, because I believe that I have had a fantastic life, I have a wonderful family life, I do not owe anyone a penny, I have the most beautiful wife and best friend in the world. I tell her that I love her every day and I make her laugh every day. I would not change a single thing, look at what I have achieved in my interesting life, I was brought up in a small country village, there were times back then that I would be taken fruit picking instead of school, simply to help put food on the table. Shooting and fishing are a country boy’s bread and butter, as for my childhood, what can I say, the local policeman was a regular visitor to my house.
If there was one thing that I could change, it would be that I should have embraced technology sooner, as far as computers are concerned, I will admit that I am a dinosaur. My biggest bug bare in life is my book marketing! I will openly admit I have no idea how marketing works, I can write books, organise illustrators, printers, but marketing, no, chance! My biggest thrill is the thought of a child somewhere in the world opening my book on their birthday, and smiling.
This is where all of my frustration goes, I would just love my grand-children to see my books on the bookshelves, but unless a miracle happens, I will have to rely on Amazon. Apparently, I can market my books on Amazon, but how? I have read books, listened to forums on this subject, they may as well be talking in some strange foreign language. All I want to do is write books!!!!!!
Just think, look at me, a country boy, not much education at all, not what you would call intelligent, still good looking, ha,ha. I still like to make people laugh as often as I can. If I can achieve everything that I have achieved, with everything that I have had to put up with through-out my life, just image what you could achieve!!!!!!!!!!
Well, here we are almost at the end of my story, I am now 68 years of age, disabled with end stage kidney failure, I still sing, teach fishing and love life. There are many more of life events that I could/should have included in these pages, but I think that it is time for my afternoon nap!!!!!!!