Sixteen months ago I could never have imagined I’d be watching my husband Mike zooming around the track in a national cycling competition.

Later, when he stood on the podium receiving a silver and then gold medal at the Great Britain Transplant Games in Liverpool, I felt a lump in my throat.

The Games brought together 700 competitors of all ages and backgrounds, battling it out against each other over four days and 20 sports, from running and cycling to swimming, golf and tennis.

What the competitors had in common was they were all transplant patients.

Mike was lucky enough to receive a kidney transplant in March last year, after just over two years on the waiting list, including 15 months on dialysis.

I remember the day he came back to our Witney home in June 2012 after a routine check-up at the Churchill Hospital and told me his consultant Dr Phil Mason had said the time was fast approaching when he would need to go on dialysis.

He was a bit shocked and so was I, even though we had known for years this moment would come.

Mike was diagnosed with the hereditary condition polycystic kidney disease, where cysts develop in the kidneys and as they grow larger, the kidneys struggle to work properly until, eventually, they cannot function at all.

The condition is what is known as a ‘late-onset’ one, meaning it’s likely you’d go through life with no symptoms until you hit your 40s or 50s.

Thankfully, the superb renal team at the Churchill had been closely monitoring Mike’s health and were able to pinpoint when he would reach what is chillingly known as ‘end-stage renal failure’.

But even though we had suspected this was coming, it was still a jolt.

Mike’s father, Robert and his aunt Elizabeth have both received kidney transplants and his family believe his grandmother may have had the same condition.

Mike had frequent check-ups at the Churchill’s Peritoneal Dialysis Unit, where Jayne Woodhouse, Catriona Lewis, Sally Bond and Clare Forrester took care of him.

And team nurses Tabitha Hezron and Carolin Giles spent hours spread over weeks visiting our house to show Mike how to use the dialysis machine and, most importantly, how not to give himself an infection in the process.

He learned the complicated regime off by heart and did not complain about having to spend 30 minutes every single night going through the ritual.

Once connected, there was no disconnecting before eight hours was up, unless in an absolute emergency.

It wasn’t all bad, as Mike pointed out a few times when we realised it was bin night, we were both in bed in pyjamas and only one of us was able to go and sort it.

For 15 months, we slept with it whirring and chuntering away next to us all through the night.

At first it seemed hugely noisy but after two weeks, we learned to sleep through it.

The dialysis machine, of course, had to go everywhere we went. So, whether visiting my family in South Wales or celebrating our Silver Wedding Anniversary with a week away, it became our most important piece of luggage.

It had a tough, black case and was incredibly compact, although heavy.

One of the funniest moments was arriving at a Devonshire hotel for the weekend and the manager asking if he could take our bags.

Mike tried to put him off but he wasn’t having it and after having lugged the dialysis machine case up three lots of stairs asked (only half joking) if we had a dead body in there.

Of course there were many less funny moments, like when we had a power cut just before bedtime, meaning there was a real worry that the machine would not be able to work its life-preserving magic.

Mike also had to get used to lying a certain way in bed so that he didn’t squash the tubes going in and out of the machine and there were restrictions on diet – which meant no grapefruit or bananas and at one point a total ban on tomatoes and potatoes.

The total amount of liquid he was allowed, in drinks and food, was also strictly limited to one litre a day.

The tiredness was probably the biggest thing and I watched Mike growing more exhausted and paler.

Dialysis keeps you alive but doesn't do anywhere near as good a job as your kidneys.

Every day he would need to lie down for at least an hour and walking any distance was out of the question, as he would become so out of breath.

So, when the call came in the early hours one day in March last year we were both nervous but hopeful.

When we arrived at the Churchill’s Wytham ward at 4am, we did not dare get our hopes up, because we knew the transplant team would have to carry out a number of tests before they could give the go-ahead.

Suddenly, we found ourselves at the centre of what seemed like an episode of Casualty and he was quickly whisked off to the operating theatre for the four-hour procedure to plumb-in the new kidney.

As soon as possible, I was straight on the phone to our two sons, Matt, 23 and Dom, 20 and Mike’s parents and aunt to tell them the good news.

The best bit was seeing him after he was wheeled back onto the ward.

Although he was still hooked up to what seemed like a million tubes, he had colour in his cheeks, was smiling and giving me the thumbs-up.

Back home six days later, he went in for check-ups three times a week at first, then weekly, then monthly.

His employers, London-based market analysts Mintel have been incredibly supportive all the way through, as Mike needed two months off after the operation.

The turning point came in January this year, when he got back on his bike and joined Witney-based Mickey Cranks Cycling Club.

Not being able to move around much and fluid retention meant he had put on weight.

Even though he was an ex-professional rider, he hadn’t raced for 20 years and struggled to keep up with the weekly training rides but gradually started coming home a little less despondent.

One of his oldest friends, former professional Maurice Burton, was running a cycling training camp in Lanzarote and invited Mike.

After checking with Dr Mason, he went and it was that week which proved the turning point.

He came back with a new optimism, having rediscovered the joy of pushing himself to ride faster.

That spurred him on to start training in earnest for the GB Transplant Games, run by Transplant Sport as part of its drive to persuade more people to sign up to be organ donors.

Having lost 22lb since the op and with blood pressure that has fallen from dangerously high to normal levels, he is hoping to be selected to compete for Great Britain in the World Transplant Games, held in Malaga next summer.

Medals or not, I'll definitely be on that finishing line cheering as loudly as I can.

Mike Oliver writes:

The phone rang at 2.30 in the morning.

I was due to go to the Churchill that day for an operation on a hernia, so my suitcase was packed and ready beside my bed.

I thought it was going to be a call cancelling the op but instead it was someone from NHS Blood and Transplant team telling me that they had a donor kidney for me and could I make my way to the hospital but not to rush.

It only became real about 20 minutes before I went down for my operation.

The small room quickly filled with nurses and doctors firing questions at me, the surgeon came in to explain what he was going to do and I had to sign the consent forms giving my permission for it all to go ahead and confirming that I understood the risks of all the things that could potentially go wrong.

Suddenly, I felt overwhelmed. I could feel myself breaking out in a cold sweat and am told I went very pale.

This was it. The moment I’d been waiting more than two years for was finally here.

My life had been in a state of suspension since January 2013, when I was officially added to the transplant list.

Before that, it had become apparent that my kidney function was deteriorating quite significantly.

In September 2013, I’d had an operation to have a catheter inserted into my peritoneum, ready to begin dialysis.

Rather than the traditional blood dialysis, I’d chosen peritoneal dialysis (PD), where a liquid is introduced into the peritoneum and extracts the impurities from your blood through the wall of your stomach.

I could do it overnight at home, using a little machine the size of small photocopier.

So, I started dialysis in January 2014.

It took a bit of getting used to, because once I was hooked up to the machine, I couldn’t move more than a couple of metres from it for eight hours.

I tried not to let the dialysis interfere too much and even managed a ‘boys roadtrip’, driving down to Monaco for the Historic Grand Prix meeting.

Reluctantly, I decided that a long-planned 25th wedding anniversary trip to Venice was a step too far, as it would involve transporting all my supplies and the machine on and off a boat. We settled for Brixham in Devon instead…

On the morning of my transplant op, I remember going down to the operating theatre and saying ‘Goodbye’ to my wife, Gill.

The next thing I remember was waking up in the recovery room and was later taken back to the ward.

I cannot describe how good I felt, although some of it might be down to the morphine.

The difference was almost instantaneous.

It was only then that I realised how unwell I had felt for so long.

Now, 16 months on, I still feel great and best of all, have my independence back and am not tied to my dialysis machine.

I am eternally grateful to my donor for taking that decision, some day, somewhere, to sign up to the organ donor register. If you are tempted to do so, consider this amazing fact: one person donating their organs can alter or save the lives of up to nine people.

The Oxford Transplant Centre

About 100 patients a year receive a kidney transplant at the Oxford Transplant Centre, with patients coming from as far as Swindon, Gloucester, High Wycombe and Banbury.

Dr Phil Mason, consultant nephrologist, said: “We are delighted to hear that Mike has been so successful at the Great Britain Transplant Games. It's always a boost to the clinical team when we hear someone has gone on to do so well following a kidney transplant and especially as Mike's was only 16 months ago.

“We all look forward to seeing his medals when he next comes to the hospital.”

To find out how you can support our local NHS Oxfordshire hospitals, see

Could you be a donor and save a life?

The average waiting time for a donor kidney transplant is two-to-three years, because demand is much higher than supply.

Between April 2014 and April 2015, some 3,000 kidney transplants were carried out in the UK but there were still more than 5,000 people on the waiting list.

Going on the register to pledge your organs for donation after you die could save someone else’s life and takes just two minutes to register online at