Peter’s immune system started to attack his own kidneys 

Peter Wilkinson, 51, has had a varied life. He started as an apprentice in the Royal Navy and later took a series of jobs in agriculture and the building trade.

Partly because of problems with his physical health, he decided on a change in career and qualified as a teacher. A couple of years later, he began to notice that he was becoming very tired. He had been diagnosed with diabetes when he was 23, and had taken daily injections of insulin – and more recently been using an insulin pump – ever since.

But this feeling of tiredness was new. At first, he put it down to the demands of his new job, but eventually saw his doctor about his symptoms. Peter's doctor sent him for tests and investigations at his local hospital.

He says: "I was admitted to hospital for an endoscopy investigation, as my doctor thought I might have a problem in my intestines. I had some standard blood tests and when the results came back, they showed high calcium levels. I was told I had acute kidney failure."

It turned out that Peter’s immune system, the body’s system for fighting off infection, had started to attack his own kidney. This process, called autoimmunity, is a common cause of kidney disease.

Soon after, Peter found out that his kidney disease was serious. "I was told that I was eventually going to lose my kidneys."

Since diagnosis, he has been able to keep his kidney disease stable by controlling his blood pressure with a combination of three different treatments.

His tiredness has become worse and worse, and he has had to give up teaching. "I have to have an afternoon nap every day because I just run out of energy."

Peter has stage 4-5 chronic kidney disease and will eventually need dialysis on an artificial kidney machine. He will also probably need a transplant.

"I’m lucky because I have siblings, so I hope, when the time comes, I will be able to have a living donation from one of them," he says.

Peter lives in Trimdon Station near Sedgefield and is a member of the North East Kidney Patients Association, part of the National Kidney Federation. He says that talking to other people with kidney disease has been a great help in coming to terms with his condition.

"It’s not great to know that things aren't going to get better. But my condition is at least stable, and talking to other people makes me realise it can be stable for many years. That’s good to know.

"But I also know that my condition will get worse and I will need dialysis. I know now what to expect."

Picture of Peter Wilkinson

Page last reviewed: 08/09/2014

Next review due: 08/09/2016