Mayor supports Milton Keynes kidney patient’s sponsored walk

Posted 9th April 2024

Milton Keynes resident Hope Russell was born prematurely after a road traffic accident caused her mother, Maxine, to go into early labour.

Just a few months later Maxine was told her newborn baby had kidney disease that would progress info full renal failure by the time she was five. Now, 25 years later, the pair are ten months post-transplant surgery and on track to raise over £1,400 for Kidney Research UK through a 13.2 mile walk with nearly 50 friends and family.

“A couple of months after the transplant I decided to challenge myself,” Hope said. “I’m able to walk and I really wanted to raise money for Kidney Research UK so it seemed like the most accessible way to do that. It was only me, Mum and my auntie to begin with but now loads of my friends and family are joining in. It’s going to be a great day.”

Hope has been on medication her entire life in preparation for her inevitable transplant but the road there was both mentally and physically draining. She said: “Hospital visits are never local; they take up a whole day and the experience is never pleasant. I thought that would change post-transplant, but I still spent so much of my time there and sometimes I have to go within hours of receiving a call.”

Mum Maxine has been on the journey with her daughter, ready and waiting to be her live donor. She said: “From the age of five, I’ve just been on standby for Hope. Because she was stable for so long – which I know is good – I had to just keep retesting to make sure I was still ok to be a donor. I felt a bit of a relief when it was time to go because we were actually going to be doing this now. I knew I could do my bit and then move on.”

Despite knowing Maxine would be her donor and that the operation was low risk, Hope was still uneasy about her mother going into surgery. She continued: “Mum and I have a special connection now, and I’m so grateful for her, but when she had the operation I was absolutely terrified. I couldn’t stop thinking ‘my mum’s going to die’.”

After a successful operation, life has started again for Hope and Maxine. Hope has had lots more energy, but the last two months have been a little trickier. After a transplant, patients have to take immunosuppressants to prevent the body attacking the donor kidney, but the suppression of the immune system also means patients are prone to picking up other illness and infections. Hope has, sadly, been relatively unwell but that doesn’t deter her training.

Fast forward to April 2024, 11 months post-transplant, Hope and Maxine will be joined by nearly 50 of their friends and family on a sponsored walk. Starting at the National Badminton Centre, waved off by Councillor Mick Legg, Mayor of Milton Keynes, the group will begin their half marathon around the city.

They are blown away by the support from their community coming in all shapes and sizes. “We’ve had some amazing support,” Hope explains. “Not only have we received generous donations on our fundraising page, my wedding cake maker has agreed to provide 60 cupcakes, my mum’s workplace MacIntyre is hosting a halfway house point and providing much needed refreshments, and my foot consultant has provided me with insoles for my shoes to make the walk less painful.”

Hope shares her journey with her growing community on Instagram (hopes.kidney.journey) so people going through similar experiences don’t feel alone in their diagnosis. She said: “It’s ok to be scared because I was too. I was terrified. You are not alone, though, and there are people out there going through the same thing as you. If you’ve got the support around you, use that support and don’t do it alone.”

Marc Shaw, head of community, events and volunteering at Kidney Research UK said: “Hope’s walk is a brilliant display of the impact our kidney community has on those around them. There are estimated to be 23,000 people living with kidney disease in Milton Keynes alone and 7.2 million people UK-wide. We are so grateful to Hope, her family and friends for helping us spread awareness and make a positive change to kidney patients’ lives.”