‘You never know what’s round the corner, do you?’ says water polo player Toula Falvey who went from training with the national team to barely being able to walk in the space of a few hours.
The 21 year-old American athlete narrowly avoided losing a kidney in a rare condition which could have seen the organ die within an hour due to a sudden blood clot of the renal vein.
Toula, who had been spending the summer in the UK training for the World University Games, was enjoying her first taste of independence when a stomach ache quickly turned into severe abdominal pain and vomiting.
She was rushed to Ealing Hospital where the initial diagnosis was a troublesome kidney stone before scans revealed a swollen kidney that may already have died due to blood clot of the renal vein.
Martin Malina, an endovascular surgeon at neighbouring Northwick Park Hospital, said: “It’s an extremely rare condition where blood being pumped into the organ via the renal artery is trapped because the renal vein leading out of the kidney is blocked”.
It was a shock for the super fit British-American citizan who had never been to hospital in her life.
“One moment everything was fine, the next I was in hospital being told I might lose a kidney. It’s been quite a week.”
Surgeons carried out an initial procedure which involved an overnight infusion of a powerful medicine into the kidney to break up the clot. A second procedure the following day at Northwick Park Hospital saw the remains of the clot removed with the use of wires guided into the vein via an entry point in the groin.
Martin added: “It’s a tough thing for anyone to go through yet alone a young athlete whose family are several thousand miles away.
“Luckily, there was still a trickle of blood passing through her kidney when she arrived which gave us enough time to rectify the problem. Expert multidisciplinary input by radiologists, transplant surgeons and nephrologists was extremely helpful.”
Toula said: “Martin was reassuring and kept things light after I told him I didn’t like needles or blood. I was so relieved when he told me the procedure seemed successful.
“It’s been a real whirlwind of a week but I can walk a few steps now and am already thinking about when I can get back in the water.”
Toula is taking her mind off things by cheering on two of her friends who are currently competing for the Canadian water polo team in the Tokyo Olympics.