A man who has had two kidney transplants says he ‘wouldn’t be here’ were it not for the National Health Service.
Paul Cocker, aged 48, was first diagnosed with kidney disease in 1994 at the age of 24, and spent the next seven years as a dialysis patient.
In 2001 he had his first kidney transplant – from his sister Karen – and then in 2017 had his second – this time from his brother Vincent.
He has now spent half his life visiting the Northern General Hospital – and says he sees the doctors and nurses there like ‘old friends’.
“Until I was 24 I knew nothing about the health service and nothing about being ill,” he says.
“I thought I was invincible. Now, the honest answer is that without it, I wouldn’t be here.”
Before his transplants, Paul had to attend hospital three times a week for four hours at a time.
“Dialysis is difficult,” he says. “Even if the kidney had only lasted three years I would have still taken it.
“I was on the transplant list for quite a long time but fortunately both my siblings were matches.”
As Paul has had two transplants, he is in a unique position to see how the health service has changed and developed over that time.
“We can all talk about the politics of the health service but being a patient you are more interested in your own care,” he said.
“And I couldn’t fault the way the staff have looked after me. I always had an active say in what was happening because they were teaching me about my own illness. That gives you a sense of control over it. I have asked my renal consultant Dr Will McKane a million stupid questions about things I have read on the internet.
“But he would always listen and explain what he thought about them. I think he likes me doing it really!”
The number of transplants done at Northern General has grown phenomenally since Paul had his first 17 years ago.
And it is this growth – and the communication difficulties that have come in its wake – that is Paul’s only reservation about the way the service has treated him and his family.
“For the first transplant, we felt communicated with every step of the way,” he said.
“For the second we were left with questions rather than answers.”
But whenever he goes back into Northern General now for his periodic blood tests, he always makes sure to say hello at the dialysis unit.
“I was there the other day, they are like friends to me,” he says.
“They used to see me looking awful so I want them to see me now I am fit and well.
“I want them to see the results of all their hard work.”