A GROUP of people who have battled kidney failure are committed to helping others on their journey to get a transplant.

And members of the Dorset Kidney Fund (DKF) represent the only charity in the county committed to the cause.

From 76-year-old Diana Crowder, who finally got a transplant in 2010 after waiting six-years, to five-year-old Weymouth youngster Max Price, who was recently given his father’s kidney, the DKF helps with financial strain, offers advice and works to provide people with medical equipment at home.

The fund has gone from strength to strength since it formed as part of the Dorset and Wessex Kidney Fund in the early 90s.

And in 2013 alone, the DKF paid out more than £38,000 to help kidney patients.

Chairman Stephanie Vincent said the committee, which is made up of ten members, desperately wants to raise their profile across Dorset.

She said: “We need more volunteers, more donations, more dedicated fundraisers and to make our presence known at clinics across the county.”

The DFK, which is a registered charity, works on behalf of renal patients in the area covered by the Dorset Renal Unit which is based at the Dorset County Hospital.

This area includes the major conurbations of Poole and Bournemouth to Christchurch, Blandford and Shaftsbury as well as Bridport and Weymouth, Yeovil and south Somerset.

Ms Vincent added: “We became a fund when patients from Dorset and Wessex had to go to Portsmouth for dialysis more than 20-years-ago.

“In the 1990s, the DFK split from Wessex Kidney Fund in the hope to get a renal unit in the Dorset area.

“Luckily, Dorset County Hospital acquired a dialysis station and the DFK provided funds towards the facility where a renal nurse cared for two patients a week.”

Their recent efforts involved raising £35,000 to help pay for patients to get dialysis treatment in their own homes.

While Dorset County Hospital pays the other half, this would not be possible without Dorset Kidney Fund.

Committee member and transplant survivor Diana Crowder said this year the group will be working to make their presence known at clinics and by encouraging even more fundraisers to get involved.

She said: “It is getting harder and harder to raise funds.

“We want people to know we are here and what we are doing.”

Past fundraising events have included a dance event in Bournemouth and collecting outside supermarkets.

The DFK also meets patients of the Kidney Care Team at DCH, which is where they met committee member Neil Murray, who is currently waiting for a transplant. The other member Simon Bishop is still leading a happy life after having a transplant in the late 1970s.

To donate visit the group’s website justgiving.com/dkf

A late-night call changed my life

A PENSIONER told the Echo that accepting a kidney transplant in her 70s was the ‘best thing she ever did’.

DKF committee member Diana Crowder, was called at 1am one night in October 2010 to be told that doctors had found her a match on the national donor list.

The 76-year-old said: “The team at Bristol called me a taxi and by 5am I was at the hospital having checks.

“It is the best thing I have ever done. I was on dialysis for six-years and I couldn’t imagine doing that now.”

The grandmother-of-six, from Preston, knew she had kidney problems for years but was only put on dialysis when she moved to Dorset in 1999.

While being treated at Dorset County Hospital by nurse and now chairman of the DKF, Stephanie Vincent, she heard about the Dorset charity and been involved ever since.

She added: “My first thought when I got that phone call was whether should I accept or not.

“It sounds silly but I had just woken up and I didn’t know what to do. My grandson Dylan was staying with me at the time so he had to come to hospital with me.

“It has vastly improved my way of life and I had so much support from the DKF.

“My family and friends were delighted, it is the best thing I’ve ever done.”

The weekly trips to the hospital and periods of illness were some of things that impacted on Diana’s husband Alan Crowder, when she was waiting for a kidney transplant.

Mr Crowder, who is the DKF newsletter editor, said: “It devastates lives and families and the only cure is a transplant.”

Diana praised him for his efforts as her carer during the years when she would experience periods of illness and have to travel to hospital three times a week for four-hour periods for dialysis.

The 78-year-old added: “Our whole family were overjoyed when Diana got a transplant and it was a success.

“So many times it doesn’t work out or you can just miss out.”

Crucial fund which needs your support

“The Dorset Kidney Fund is vital to Dorset but we need more support,” says retired renal nurse and chairman of the DKF Stephanie Vincent.

The 60-year-old from Weymouth worked as a peritoneal renal nurse at Dorset County Hospital and has been involved with the DKF since 1999.

She said: “I’ve seen a lot of changes and we desperately need to raise our profile to get more volunteers and more donations.

“I cared for committee member Diana while she was being treated at DCH – that’s how she came to be involved in the group.

“She’s been through so much but it all worked out for her and we want to help others.”

One mum’s precious gift to her son

SELFLESS mum Sue Bithell donated one of her kidneys to her son, who was born with chronic renal failure and spent 25 years on dialysis.

At the young age of six, Paul Bithell had his first transplant which sadly failed.

When the family moved to Dorset in 2007, the mother and son duo became involved with the DKF through Dorset County Hospital.

When news came that she could donate her son a kidney Sue decided to go ahead and the pair underwent procedure in Bristol.

Sue, of Stratton, said: “Paul’s wasn’t a usual transplant situation so we had to go to Bristol where they had the right equipment.

“The recovery for the organ donor is often worse than it is for the person who has received the kidney, as it was for me.

“It took me almost six months to recover but it is the best thing we have done.”

She added: “It was quite a miracle really, I wasn’t a perfect match for Paul.”

Paul said: “It was difficult growing up having to have dialysis, I missed a lot of school and it is a completely different experience from what other children have.

“Luckily, I had dialysis at home when I was a teenager so I managed to go to college and university.”

Paul is now the vice chairman of the DKF as well as patient representative while his mum Sue is a dedicated fundraiser.

Thanks from Max

While adults with renal problems can be treated at Dorset County Hospital, there is not a facility for children in the county and DKF members claim this should change.

The family of five-year-old Max Price praised their work.

Before his transplant, Max had to travel three times a week to Southampton for dialysis and the financial strain on his family was lifted thanks to DKF grants.

Mum Michelle said: “We cannot thank the Dorset Kidney Fund enough for what they have done for Max, we will be eternally grateful.”

To donate to the Fund or find out more visit  dorsetkidneyfund.org.uk