Parents bless their children with the gift of life but one woman has been blessed three times after her mum and dad both gave her a kidney.
When Becky Smith, 32, was just a tiny baby, she developed the rare and dangerous condition focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSG) – a leading cause of kidney failure in adults.
At the age of 15 she had both of her kidneys removed and replaced with one of her dad’s, and by the time she had graduated from university, she had her mum’s too.
Becky, who has just launched her own dog grooming business at Brogdale Farm and is now looking towards a healthy future, said: “I was born in Berlin but was quite unwell from birth and was in and out of hospital.
“I had an infection which lowered my immune system and it became so low that I developed FSG.
“I was fairly unwell during my childhood and when I was around eight years old it became apparent that I wasn’t doing very at all and was prescribed steroids.
“This completely changed my appearance as I went from being quite skinny to putting on a lot of weight, with my cheeks all puffy, which was very difficult for a young girl to deal with.
“Kids can be cruel. I can remember this part of my life when my self-confidence was at an all-time low.”
Becky’s health then began a downward spiral and she soon needed to have dialysis, which removes excess water from the blood when the kidneys are failing to do the job.
As she reached her final and crucial months of GCSEs, Becky was given the inevitable news that would change her life forever – she needed a double kidney transplant.
Six weeks later and after six unimaginable hours under the knife, Becky’s dad Jeff Smith risked his own life to protect his daughter’s with the donation of his organ.
Becky said: “At that time, you needed to have the same blood group as someone to have their kidney and my dad was a match.
“But he was overweight and the surgeons wouldn’t operate unless he did something about it.
“He had never lost weight before for himself, but as soon as he knew that he had to do it for me, there was no question about it.
“He didn’t even have to think about it. He lost five stone in a matter of months and the operation went ahead. He was and still is my hero.”
Becky’s luck started to change after that, and with a number of good GCSEs under her belt despite the timing of the first operation, she progressed on to college and then to university at Canterbury Christ Church to study America Tourism and Travel.
But just five years after the first transplant, in her final year of university exams, Becky’s body started to reject her dad’s kidney, with antibodies attacking the organ.
Becky, of St John’s Road, said: “I started to get unwell again and was in and out of hospital.
“It was devastating to find out that after being given my dad’s kidney and after such a short period of time, it just wasn’t working and I would need yet another transplant.
“It was a huge blow for me.”
A day before she was due to go on holiday, doctors delivered the news that she couldn’t leave because she needed another transplant – this time, it was her mum Debbie O’Connell’s turn.
Becky now lives a healthy, happy life with both her mum’s functioning kidney and her dad’s redundant one which doctor’s said would be best left inside her, despite not working.
With the launch of Lush Puppies of Faversham, her very own dog grooming service, she is looking to the future.
Becky added: “I feel like because my mum grew me, maybe her kidney was almost always part of me anyway, and now it most definitely is and that might mean it works for longer.
“My parents and I have always been really, really close but it is something which has given us an unconditional bond.”