Christmas joy for kidney transplant teen saved thanks to Sunday People campaign
16th December 2018

Bounding downstairs on Christmas morning, Abi Longfellow will not care less what is under the tree.

There is no piece of jewellery, no designer outfit, game console or surprise present that can top the gift she has already been given this year – that of life.

The teenager is looking forward to her first healthy Christmas in six years thanks to Sunday People readers.

More than 200,000 of you petitioned the Government to get 16-year-old Abi a life-saving wonder drug which meant she could undergo a vital transplant in August.

And Abi – told she wouldn’t make it to 18 without the operation – is loving her new lease of life.

She said: “This is going to be the most amazing Christmas ever.

“There will be no dialysis machine, no overwhelming tiredness and I can go out and socialise with my friends a lot more.

“I’ve already been getting in to the spirit of things, helping chose the family tree and shopping for presents.”

But as excitement mounts, Abi knows her future has come at a price for that of her donor’s family.

She said: “This Christmas is going to be a really big deal for our family, but I will be taking some time to silently thank the family of my donor, who will be remembering the person they lost.”

Abi is also in awe of our wonderful readers who backed her.

“I’d like to say thank you but I don’t think those words really cover it,” she says. “I’ve been overwhelmed by the support and effort everyone has shown. It’s been crazy.

“I really wanted to have my transplant but I wanted to make sure if I was going to get the drug, then everyone in my position should also get it.

“The Sunday People readers helped make sure I wasn’t the only one.”

It’s a sentiment typical from the teen whose determination and courage mobilised our readers and attracted the support of huge stars such as Simon Cowell and Queen guitarist Brian May.

Her ordeal makes Abi seem older than her tender years and she knows she now has a responsibility to look after herself.

This year there will be NO 12 hours of dialysis on Christmas Eve and NO sitting in her bedroom watching films while attached to a machine.

And Abi will finally be able to sit down to a full turkey dinner after her restrictive potassium-free diet on dialysis ruled out basics like broccoli, potatoes and carrots. Pudding and selection boxes were also off the menu because she was not allowed chocolate. But while she can’t wait to tuck in, Abi is keen to stay as healthy as possible.

She said: “When I first had the transplant I couldn’t wait to eat all those forbidden foods and the first thing I ordered was a Domino’s pizza.

“I spent a week eating chocolate but, while it tasted great, I soon got fed up and starting craving the healthy stuff I’d missed out on like carrots and pineapples and grapes.

“I hadn’t had a banana since I was 10 and I couldn’t remember how to peel one.

“I’m really looking forward to my turkey with all the trimmings and this year, but longer term I intend to eat as healthily as possible.

“After everything I’ve been though have a responsibility to look after my body. I know how precious my kidney is.”

This week Abi embraced the magic of the season as she took in Christmas illuminations at Stockeld Park in Wetherby, half an hour from her home in Wakefield, West Yorks.

It was a different picture 12 months ago. Her frail body was racked in pain as her failing kidneys started leaking excess calcium in to her bones.

She managed to make it home for Christmas Day but was back in Leeds General Infirmary by the New Year.

Her blood disorder Dense Deposit Disease was deemed too rare to fund the £137,000-a-year medicine eculizumab, which is given if a transplant starts to fail.

Abi should have been celebrating after the NHS agreed to our readers’ demands to give her access to the medicine.

But in a cruel twist, efforts to find a donor hit brick wall. Dad Andy, 49, was ruled out and mum Jo, 47, was unable to donate because of a medical condition. Sister Jess, 19, was being tested.

The call the family longed for came in August and the surgery was a success.

Abi, who hopes to become a child psychologist, said: “Now I’m well I’ve got a lot to catch up on and I just want to embrace it all.”

But she added: “It wasn’t all gloom. I met amazing doctors and nurses and discovered there’s a lot of kindness and support out there.”

Mum Jo agrees. She said: “We’re astounded by the level of love we’ve had.

“Abi’s illness means we have discovered a level of humanity that most people never will.”

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