Keith Anderson is a survivor - who has been given a new lease of life thanks to his only sister Paula and God’s presence with them every step of the way.
Born with a heart murmur in 1979, Keith has come through a number of health issues with the love and support of his fantastic family.
As a child he suffered serious illness and as a baby was also diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
To make his troubles worse, he was diagnosed with an active cancerous thyroid gland in 1995 and had surgery early 1996 to remove his right thyroid gland.
Double trouble to then find out that he had to have a second surgery to have his left gland done too.
Luckily with radiotherapy treatment he recovered, however, a few years later they picked up on the kidney problem.
His wife Kathryn explained: “Keith has child sized kidneys but taking calcium after the thyroid gland problems decayed the kidneys and started renal failure.”
Amid the problems the couple had fantastic news in 2010 which saw the birth of their son Alfie, now seven.
Kathryn said: “What a joy and it was great when later we had our daughter Libby, now aged five.”
Family life was never smooth going as Keith, now aged 39, had the challenge of heart surgery due to a problem with his main aortic valve.
“It was a very hard time,” said Kathryn as the operation was needed in preparation for a kidney transplant.
Unfortunately the surgery took its toll on his kidney function which reduced to five percent and he had to go through a course of dialysis at the Royal Victoria Hospital and Daisy Hill which helped considerably.
After many hospital appointments it was time to explore the possibility of a live kidney donor.
Stepping up to offer their own kidneys were his sister Paula Johnston and his mum Ann Hayes.
While both were a good match, the family were delivered another tragedy when Ann was diagnosed with breast cancer and couldn’t donate.
Kathryn said: “She was devastated. As a single parent she raised two children working extremely hard and raising a sick son as well as a beautiful daughter.”
Paula, who is married to Jim and has two children Emma (6) and Daniel (3),, works full time in the Blood Transfusion Service at Belfast City Hospital.
Kathryn said: “In Paula’s words she has two perfect kidneys and one sick brother so it’s a no brainer.
“Keith doesn’t let anything get him down and works in Almac. He never takes a day off and worked right up to three days before transplant!”
However more problems struck when a week before the transplant in November Paula had a nasty accident at home breaking two ribs so the operation had to be put on hold.
Having recovered and a new date set for January 22, Paula again tripped and broke her humerus bone on New Year’s Eve.
“This was a complete rollercoaster,” said Kathryn.
Luckily the transplant went ahead and both recovered well.
But, just last month, Keith had a setback when a blood clot was discovered between his new kidney and his bladder. After another operation he is recovering.
Kathryn said: “Keith, who also has an older son Jake (18), is very much a family man and a wonderful dad who would do anything for his family.”
Having married in Mexico in 2007, the couple, who live in Clanbrassil Park, are committed Christians and believe the power of prayer has helped them through these difficult years.
“We totally rely on God. He has been our rock with everything that has gone on. We thank our church Richhill Elim, our pastor Clive Wilson and entire church family for all the love, support and prayers. Three words we have held onto is ALL IS WELL and God has been with us all,” said Kathryn. Paula is also doing great. She’s such a positive person also. Keith got a beautiful necklace made for Paula but there’s not enough thank yous to give her. It says on her necklace: ‘Because of you I live’.
“It truly is the gift of life and such a wonderful thing you can do for someone.
“We have met some wonderful people on this journey from all the doctors, Mr Connolly who was Keith’s surgeon Mr McDaid Paula’s surgeon, Miss Magowan, Dr Courtney, Mr Hill and all the amazing nurses who work so hard. We want to thank all the renal team in Daisy Hill -Dr Hardy, Dr Hollywood. Also other patients that were in the same time and hearing their stories. We know Jo-Anne Dobson’s son Mark is eagerly awaiting their date and know the emotions they all are going through,” said Kathryn who added that most of all they would like to the thank God for being with them every step of the way.