When Val Higgins was told by her doctors that the best option to address her alarmingly high blood pressure and hypertension was to remove a kidney, which was strangely producing too much renin, she was thankful that while helping her own health she would also be helping someone else.
Renin is a protein and enzyme; its primary function is to eventually cause an increase in blood pressure, leading to restoration of perfusion pressure in the kidneys.
After pharmaceutical and other treatments failed to address Val's blood pressure of 220 on 110, kidney removal surgery took place at the PA Hospital (PAH) in 2006 to remove Val's right kidney which was producing three times the renin of her left kidney.
Val, who was 57 at the time of her operation, was soon notified that her now removed kidney could be transplanted to another patient and save them from the need to spend more than 12 hours a week on dialysis.
"They took it out, and I got a phone call, and they said, "Would you like to donate your kidney?" I thought I was going to bring it home in a bottle. And I said, "If someone can use it, they can have it," Val said.
"They said it'd keep them off the dialysis machine, it's good to know my kidney is helping them and it means they don't have to sit in a chair all the time for four hours undergoing dialysis."
Val and her husband Dennis
Other than some ongoing weariness, Val's health is travelling well, and she visits PAH every six months for a blood test and a referral for an echocardiogram to check on her heart, which became enlarged due to her high blood pressure issues.
With her blood pressure now down to 160 over 90, Val who remains under the supervision of PAH hypertension unit director, Professor Michael Stowasser and his team, is thankful for the care of PAH staff after her initial concerns were dismissed elsewhere.
"Everything went wrong in about 2003, and a private doctor tried to fix it in 2004. He gave me a big lecture and told me I was attention-seeking, I asked him for a referral back to Professor Stowasser at PA. He researched into it and looked it all up, he said, "We'll have to take a kidney out"," Val said.
"He was the one that found that the renin was all out of whack."
Visiting the PAH regularly over the years for check-ups from the home she shares with husband Dennis at Buccan, Val has nothing but positive thoughts toward the hospital which has played an important role in her life through her health.
"They've been very good to me over the years, I've got no complaints at all," she said.
With PA Research Foundation supporting the research work of the PAH based Australasian Kidney Trials Network and Australasian Kidney Transplant Centre, PAH remains at the forefront of helping people like Val and the person who received her donated kidney.
Donate to support kidney research here.