Return to Life - Paisley Daily Express
Return to Life - Paisley Daily Express

Return to Life - Paisley Daily Express

30/06/2021 (Engage Post )

The text reads: 

A Paisley transplant patient who underwent life-changing surgery five years ago is now dedicated to helping others just lke him all over the country.

Stevie Blom, 42, received a new kidney in 2016 after a sudden illness left him “in limbo between life and death”.

His failing kidney left him so poorly he couldn’t work as doctors told him the only way to save him would be with a new organ. The champion cyclist - who says his new kidney changed his life - now spends his time educating and supporting other renal failure patients and their families all over Scotland.

His charity, Return to Life, aims to close the gap between the high cost dialysis treatment and the physical and well-being support to patients undergoing gruelling treatments and waiting for a transplant.

Stevie, who lives in the town’s Queen Street, says the cost of dialysis – which is roughly £29,000 – means funding is not available to give patients and their families all the help they need.

He told the Express: “A total of six per cent of the NHS budget is spent on renal treatment, this percentage is more than what NHS spends on cancer services.

“The expense of the equipment is astronomical and people are being diagnosed with kidney failure every day. Unfortunately, because of this, the NHS does not provide any support service to renal patients and families, nor is there any mental health support. “Renal failure can be a lonely experience, most are way too fatigued and battling symptoms that it makes every life difficult and challenging. “It isn’t visible to most as the majority of the symptoms are hidden, and this can leave someone already isolated feeling vulnerable. Mental health is critical as all this can spiral out of control and lead to depression. “That is why we at Return to Life try to help provide that support that people need and give information to themselves and their families about their situation.” Alongside volunteers – which include fellow transplant patients – Stevie and his team have been involved in a number of vital projects to help improve the lives of renal failure patients across the country.

There are currently 1,000 dialysis patients in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde alone. The group was involved in discussions surrounding the Scottish Government opt-out legislation which came into force earlier this year. Return to Life spoke with government officials about the changes to organ donation and helped form the decision. Stevie said being part of this historic change was “uplifting” for the charity, however he would like to see more done to support organ donation. He added: “We got involved with the government to discuss the opt-out changes to organ donation and that was great to be a part of that as I think it is something that is so important.

“We do think the government should be going further with this and speaking to friends and families of organ donors and explaining the process to them and giving them all the information. “That is something they do in the Netherlands and they have a 78 per cent turnaround rate for donations. “So it is something that clearly works and a practice which should be implemented elsewhere.”

Another vital aspect of what Return to Life focuses on alongside the mental well-being of patients is the physical fitness of those in need of transplants. Stevie and the charity recently launched their project Trans-Fit, which provides renal failure patients and any potential donors free exercise bikes to help them maintain their fitness. “Trans-Fit has been a revelation and it is not something that is available anywhere in Scotland,” added Stevie, who competed as a cyclist for 15 years before falling ill. “Cardiovascular fitness is vital as you require a minimum level to undergo a transplant. “Many renal patients are unable to receive a transplant and are having to sustain long-term dialysis due to obesity and other health complications. “And many patients may have a relative who is a match and wants to donate, but they also have to have a level of fitness too. “These bikes have been a vital support for people and have given them access to exercise equipment they may not have had before.”

The charity has cycling at its core, as former champion rider Stevie got back on his bike to compete in a number of competitions again since his surgery. Prior to his transplant, the star athlete had ridden his bike the length and breadth of Britain and trained every day in his chase for gold medals. Stevie travelled abroad four times a year to take on riding challenges and once cleared almost 700 miles across Canada from Vancouver to Calgary in just ten days. After his life-changing operation, he returned to competing and won a bronze medal at the British Transplant Games. The Netherlands-born Buddie was also picked for the Dutch national cycling team. He is also part of a cycle race team called GTR-Return To Life, in which all members fundraise by promoting open racing events. Stevie says without their support the charity wouldn’t be sustainable. He added: “The cycling community has been magnificent by contributing to the charity donations and it has played a huge part in our fundraising, especially the RTL team, who have volunteered to donate all proceeds from competitive time trials.”

Now, much like hundreds of other charities, Return to Life is working to undo the damage caused by Covid-19. Stevie has managed to maintain contact with those they support through Zoom and he hails the support from renal surgeons, ward staff, volunteers and those who donate to the charity for keeping in going. Funding is crucial and anyone willing to donate can contact the charity via the Facebook page or email returntolife@ btconnect.com 


Courtesy of the Paisley Daily Express

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