Kidney patient from Southam takes part in UK skydiving contest

Skydivers Gemma Duffy, Holly Jenkins, Brad Dimmock (team cameraman), Charlotte Pope, Maddy Warren. The group won a silver medal in the rookie category in the UK Skydiving National Championships. NNL-170824-171858001
Skydivers Gemma Duffy, Holly Jenkins, Brad Dimmock (team cameraman), Charlotte Pope, Maddy Warren. The group won a silver medal in the rookie category in the UK Skydiving National Championships. NNL-170824-171858001

A rookie skydiver who lost both her kidneys as a teenager was part of a formation team which won a silver medal at the recent UK Skydiving National Championships.

Maddy Warren, from Southam, was part of a four-person team which nearly won the rookie category after a jump off with another team.

The group did six jumps during the competition in Hull and drew with the team from the RAF, which led to the jump off.

Miss Warren said: “I did sky diving last year on World Kidney Day and when I finished the jump I thought, ‘This is what my life has been missing.’

“I have carried on jumping over the past few years. Some of us decided to form a team and we’ve called ourselves the Firefly Formation Team.

“I’m sure I am the only dialysis patient ever to take skydiving to a competitive level and win a medal.”

The 33-year-old, who grew up in London and trains at Hinton Airfield, near Brackley, has focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), a kidney disease which resulted in her having both her kidneys removed at the age of 14 when other treatments didn’t work.

She said: “It came out of the blue, having been healthy.

“Your immune system stops recognising your kidneys as your own. You feel exhausted and there are nasty complications. They treated it with steroids and chemotherapy, all of which they tried for over a year-and-a-half.”

After her kidneys were removed, she started on peritoneal dialysis, which uses the inside lining of your abdomen as a filter, and because she wanted to go back to school, she opted to have dialysis overnight at home.

After completing her A-levels and earning a place to study natural sciences at Cambridge University, she took a gap year when her father donated one of his kidneys.

But the FSGS returned and despite spending three months trying to save the kidney, it had to be taken out.

Miss Warren started receiving haemodialysis, where a machine clears the blood, and trained to do it herself at home. Most people receive haemodialysis three times a week for four hours at a time.

Miss Warren has dialysis overnight every night at home, making the treatment more effective.

While studying at university, Miss Warren had to go into hospital for her dialysis as the Cambridge area didn’t have a dialysis at home programme. But after a few months of juggling her treatment with studying an intensive full time course and trying to keep an active social life, she realised it wasn’t going to work.

She left Cambridge and studied at the London School of Economics then started working for Barclays Bank and Goldman Sachs. She now runs her own consultancy and has been working with Quanta Dialysis Technologies, which has developed a machine to fit dialysis around life. She will be marking her 20th year on dialysis next year. She said: “I am doing well on dialysis, but I am an exception.

“My condition has given me a strong perspective that you have to live every day. It is an effort to set up the machine every night. If I have gone to all that effort to be here, I will go out and enjoy life. I am doing things I wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t had kidney failure.”

But she added: “There is a public misunderstanding about how important your kidneys are and so few people realise that without them, you would die.

“It is important you look after your own kidneys. They are incredible – you can survive very well with one.

“People are aware of cancer and diabetes, but survival rates for kidney failure are worse than for some cancers.”