Rehana Kosar encourages people to get talking about mental health.Forty-six-year-old mother of two, Rehana Kosar, struggled with low mood and anxiety after health problems following a kidney transplant.

As a teenager Rehana suffered from severe kidney infections, which led to regular hospital visits and a diagnosis by doctors of Glomerulonephritis, a hereditary kidney disease.

Rehana explained: “I was in and out of hospital because of kidney failure and my condition was controlled by antibiotics. It wasn’t until my forties that I needed to have dialysis. When I was advised I needed treatment I was very emotional and anxious…  I didn’t know what to expect as my dad had died of kidney failure years earlier. It wasn’t a pleasant experience going to hospital three times a week, being hooked up to a machine for three hours at a time to have my fluid, water retention and urine cleaned out.”

Rehana continued: “I was really lucky though to have a flexible and supportive employer, which enabled me to remain in part-time employment whilst having treatment. I was also very lucky to only be on dialysis for nine months.  It was 2013 when I got the lovely phone call that changed my life, letting me know I’d been offered a kidney transplant. I had the operation on 19 October 2013, a date I’ll never forget. Every year on the anniversary I celebrate by giving money to charity or visiting the renal unit at St Luke’s where I meet other patients and talk to them about my own experience of having dialysis.   I also go to conferences where I speak out and share my story and journey.   When I was given a second chance of life, I thought it would be good to give hope and encouragement to other people who may have any minor or severe illnesses.

“Having the transplant was brilliant, I was strong, positive, and so grateful to have my life back. When I first came home even small steps like going to the toilet, having a shower and getting dressed were a struggle; I needed support from my family to get out of bed as I was in so much pain.”

After the operation and a long period at home recuperating, Rehana began to lose her confidence, experiencing low mood and anxiety. Rehana said: “I was off work for a year and this was when my mental health took a dip.”

A visit to her GP led Rehana to sign up for a Champions Show the Way walking group, run by Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust. The volunteering groups offers free sociable activities such as walking, singing and writing, led by dedicated volunteer community health champions.  Rehana has never looked back, crediting the group with giving her a new lease of life, helping her regain her confidence and zest for life after being able to talk, get active and share her experience of how she was feeling with the group.

Rehana would like to encourage more people to seek support and talk about mental health, to help people understand they are not alone.  Rehana said: “I was made to feel very welcome by the group even though I was quiet at first as I didn’t know what to expect and was still lacking confidence and feeling a bit down. I just knew I needed to be around positive people I could talk to that would lift my mood. It was great as nobody judged me, they could relate to how I was feeling. It was great walking, building my endorphin levels up, getting out into the fresh air and going for a bite to eat afterwards. I felt healthier in myself getting out and meeting likeminded people. It felt like a real achievement. It’s been nearly a year now since I joined the walking group and I’ve built really good friendships. We recently went to Blackpool and did a lovely walk by the sea, we had a family picture taken of all of us as we feel like we’re family now. We also organised a Christmas outing, going bowling, followed by Christmas lunch and another family photo of the group.”

Inspired to continue to help others, Rehana has also volunteered to be a befriender in a local wellbeing café, offering a friendly ear and someone to talk to when someone is having a bad day.

Rehana concluded: “It’s basically about having that communication and knowing that even though you may be going through something, there are people who understand, you’re not alone and it’s good to talk.”

Find out more about the range of interesting sociable activities available through Champions Show the Way, visit:  www.bdct.nhs.uk/services/cstw/

 

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