THE COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on many individuals across the country, but after a four-year wait, 33-year-old Carwyn Jones got the positive news he had long been waiting for when he was granted a second chance at life, after receiving a kidney and pancreas transplant in August 2020.
Despite being type 1 diabetic from the age of two, Carwyn, from Pontsian, never thought he’d experience ill-health so early in his adulthood.
He said: “I was never ill as a child. The only impact my diabetes had on me was having to inject insulin twice a day, which soon became second nature growing up.
“At school, I was on the rugby team, and it soon became one of my passions; I relished the competitive nature of the sport.
“In 2014, I set-up my own business as a tyre fitter and as I far as I was aware, I led a healthy and active life.”
Only two years later, in 2016, Carwyn’s life completely changed after collapsing on his way to work.
He said: “I was rushed to A&E in Carmarthen, and after a series of tests, they discovered my heart wasn’t functioning properly. The next thing I knew, I was attached to a haemodialysis system and I was told my kidneys were failing and I would need dialysis treatment to keep me alive.
“Dialysis made me feel low, exhausted and drained. I was also frustrated by the situation; I kept asking myself, ‘why me’? I was almost thirty and had just started my own business – I really thought the world was my oyster. I had to give up my work and my hobbies; my world, it seemed, was turned upside down.
“I was the youngest person by far at the dialysis unit, and this alone was difficult to accept. I wasn’t old and frail, I should have been enjoying life with my friends, not depending on a machine to help me survive.
“At first, I visited hospital to receive dialysis treatment, but after two years I moved to a home dialysis machine in September 2018, where I was on dialysis five times a week. The effects of dialysis meant I had to eventually give up my business. This was the hardest thing.”
Three years later, in 2019, Carwyn received a call about a possible match.
He said: “After three years on the transplant list, I finally received the call I was waiting for. I imagined for a second what my life could become without dialysis. They do warn you that it may not go ahead, and unfortunately this was the case. I was shattered, but I picked myself up and told myself that I’m still alive and my time would come soon”.
Unfortunately, Carwyn’s second call, was also a false alarm.
Carwyn said: “It’s hard to keep positive when you’re so close to changing your life.”
A fortnight after his second phone call, it was third time lucky for Carwyn when he was called to the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff to receive a double pancreas and kidney transplant, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I had a phone call early in the morning on August 12th. They told me they had a potential match, and I had a feeling this time it was for real.
“I made my way to the University Hospital of Wales and after numerous tests, I underwent a double pancreas and kidney transplant.
“The care I received while in hospital was phenomenal, and everyone made me feel safe. It’s hard to believe that in a period of such despair, I was given a second opportunity at life.
“All I know about my donor is he was a 49-year-old man who suffered a bleed on the brain. I can’t imagine what his family must have been through, but I honestly cannot thank them enough. The decision they have made means that I’m able to eventually go back to work, watch my nieces grow up, and finally enjoy life in its entirety.
“I think that it’s crucial that people talk to their families and register their organ donation decision. It affects people of all ages, and organ donation for most people is their last chance of a ‘normal’ life.”
Now in a recovery period, Carwyn is currently shielding, but feels better than ever:
“My health is improving every day. I have more energy and I’m in less pain; I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m taking it slow, but my dream of going to watch the Lions tour in South Africa is edging closer to a reality!”