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New befriending service

Offering a shoulder to lean on: The Paul Popham Fund Befriending Service is being set up in Swansea on Thursday June 23.
Offering a shoulder to lean on: The Paul Popham Fund Befriending Service is being set up in Swansea on Thursday June 23.

A NEW support service will soon be launched to help kidney patients deal with their condition, as part of a South Wales kidney disease sufferer’s legacy.

Being set up in Swansea this month, organisers are eager to recruit people with first-hand experience of renal disease, whether through themselves, family members or friends, to help play a crucial role in the success of the support service.

The Paul Popham Fund Befriending Service sets out to not only give new renal patients support but also to offer them a shoulder to lean on as they come to terms with their diagnosis.

Chair of the Swansea-based charity Joanne Popham said: “Being diagnosed with kidney disease is life-changing and who better to understand that than someone who has either gone through it themselves or seen a loved one go through it.

“We need to hear from people who can listen to patients’ concerns, provide advice and guide them towards other services to help them learn to live with renal failure and to lead a better quality of life.

“They might be patients or just have cared for someone with kidney problems and need to be willing to share their knowledge.”

The charity has been working to develop the befriending service alongside staff from the regional renal team, who are based at Swansea’s Morriston Hospital.

The regional renal team deal with kidney patients living anywhere from Bridgend to Fishguard and even as far north as Towyn.

As well as its dialysis unit at Morriston which sees more than 220 patients, the service also has satellite haemodialysis units in Carmarthen, Haverfordwest and Aberystwyth.

Nell Brown, Regional Renal Service Manager, said: “Once you have been diagnosed with kidney disease, it may be a life sentence, but it is not all doom and gloom and patients need to understand that. That’s why having someone they can turn to is so important.

“We are delighted to have been able to work with the Paul Popham Fund to get this service off the ground. It is an important and much needed development.”

Swansea-based father-of-four Paul Popham, for who the fund was named, received two kidney transplants before sadly losing his battle with kidney cancer back in 2012.

The fund was set up in his memory by his loved ones to support renal patients across south Wales.

Besides holding fundraising events, and even establishing its own running club, the charity supports the work of NHS dialysis wards.

Paul’s daughter Joanne said that her father’s ethos was always based on believing in yourself and living the best possible life you could with the resources available to you. Allowing kidney patients to do just that is the main aim of the fund that bears his name.

Because Paul was such a longstanding supporter of the Welsh Kidney Patients’ Association, which runs its own befriending service in the country’s capital, the fund were eager to launch something similar.

Joanne added that anyone who signs up to become a befriender will be given specialist training by a clinical psychologist and receive support from the charity, as well as from the team at the renal unit.

The charity are looking for people who can understand and empathise, as well as offer a warm and friendly attitude when a kidney patient, or their carer, shares their worries or concerns.

Joanne said: “This is about giving a patient and their family knowledge and helping empower them – it’s about being a friend to someone when they need it most.”

The befriending service will be launched at 5.30pm on Thursday June 23 at Morriston Hospital’s Education Centre.

This special event will feature guest speaker Kevin Johns, who is a long-time supporter of the renal unit and patron of the Paul Popham Fund.

Kevin will be joined by kidney patients from across South West Wales as well as representatives of the Welsh Kidney Patients’ Association and Kidney Wales Foundation.

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Dayne Stone

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