Kidney Health For All – Regardless of Age and Gender

Lucy Major, 25, from the UK, recounts how she unexpectedly discovered that her back and abdomen pain – initially attributed to menstrual-related issues or dehydration – were due to acute kidney injury. Through her story, Lucy hopes to raise awareness on kidney diseases and how these can also affect young populations, and advocates for better mental support for all patients facing a sudden diagnosis of a life-changing illness.  

Hi, my name is Lucy and I am 25 years old. I am a Speech and Language Therapist and I live on the South Coast of England. I have been a practicing Speech and Language Therapist for two years. I have been working in paediatric complex needs but have just started an acute adult role, working with stroke patients and traumatic brain injuries. 

In November 2022, I was up in London on a course to become a dysphagia specialist. Dysphagia (eating, drinking and swallowing) has been a passion of mine since I was at university so I was incredibly excited to be on this week-long course. Unfortunately, on the final day, I fell incredibly unwell and ended up being admitted to the closest hospital, which happened to be King’s College. I was admitted with a nasty kidney infection and suspected sepsis. Luckily, I was not septic, but I was told my right kidney was not functioning properly and I needed further tests. 

A month later, I was told my right kidney had totally failed and would need removing. My ureter had collapsed and this caused my kidney to swell and eventually totally fail. My right kidney was removed laparoscopically (later than scheduled due to strikes) in February 2023. 

Leading up to my initial admission, I had been back and forward to my local GP complaining of pain in my back and abdomen, as well as feeling generally unwell. Originally, I was told it was most likely “period” related. I knew this was not right so asked to have bloods taken. When my bloods came back, the creatinine was high and the eGFR was low. They told me I was “most likely dehydrated” and to come back in two weeks. It was while I was waiting for those second blood test results that I was admitted to King’s. 

I do not blame the doctors for missing the signs of my kidney failing, however I feel, because I am younger than the usual patients they treat for kidney related illnesses, it was not considered and I was brushed off with “menstrual issues” and “dehydration”.I had been given NSAIDS which, I know now, damage kidneys.

I live in an area that is predominantly elderly people and I understand the local doctors and hospitals are more equipped for their needs, however, younger people should be taken seriously when they have health concerns and I feel passionate about raising awareness and encouraging people to advocate for their own health needs. I also feel, as a female, I was quickly dismissed as having period-related difficulties when in fact my ureter had collapsed behind my right ovary, causing incredible pain, and should have been investigated further.

My recommendations to policy makers, government officials and health services would be:

  • Making sure GPs know the signs of kidney-related illnesses, such as acute kidney injury (like mine), in all age groups. 
  • Young people are taken seriously when they say “I know something is not right”.
  • For women to not be dismissed as having “period issues” when we know our bodies and know what is period-related or not.
  • For more mental health support for patients following sudden illnesses leading to having an organ removed. 

Since my surgery, I have struggled with the anxiety of suddenly becoming ill again or my other kidney failing. It is a constant worry that hopefully will improve over time.

I am incredibly grateful to the Urology team, my surgeon, the nurses and everyone who looked after me at King’s College Hospital. 

I have gone back to yoga and the gym, started running. When I was ill, I knew I needed a change. I told myself when I got better, I would follow my dreams of working in an acute setting and follow my passion for dysphagia. Since then, I have got my dream job and I am feeling much more positive about the future. 

Disclaimer: The blog series is intended for informational purposes only and is not meant to endorse or promote any specific drug, product, or brand. Each individual’s experience is unique and should not be construed as medical advice or a guarantee of similar results for others. Always consult a qualified healthcare professional before making any decisions regarding your health and well-being.