I say this every time and every time I mean it. Each relationship I’m privileged to photograph is unique. Each person, horse or dog story is unique. Each time I meet a client I walk away with both a huge grin on the outside and a greater understanding of just how powerful animals can be in the lives of humans.
Hannah’s story was on another level though. I was blown away within minutes of meeting her for the first time. Not just by the amazing smile that greeted me, or by the fact that when the ramp door was opened (we were on location) a pony with a red hood on giving the impression of an equine version of the Marvel character Deadpool stuck his nose out and gave me his best ‘well hello’ eye. It wasn’t the prospect of photographing in a historic spot either.
It was the casual statement by Hannah’s mum, Maggie, that went something like… “that all changed when Hannah had a Kidney transplant last year”…
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She did what?!
Jack is the most handsome old fashion Welsh B chap. He’s as black as night and as handsome as any comic book hero. Cheeky and full of life. He’s 22 and that also made my eyes widen. He looks superb for his age. Super shiny coat and carrying the perfect weight. I was looking for the exit with him, but I’d only brought the Mini that day and not the truck otherwise Hannah might have been in danger of seeing his tail disappear with me!!
He’s been in Hannah’s life for 16 years. He was a Christmas present. Seriously, he was a present. No bow, but you know what, who cares, HE WAS A CHRISTMAS PRESENT!
They’ve done all sorts together but mostly it was showing that they enjoyed together in those first few years. Sometimes a little too enthusiastically as he’s partial to the odd pony party buck when things get very exciting for him.
We wandered up a track through a historic area of Somerset close to Ham Hill. Witcombe Valley, near Ham Hill, contains the remains of a medieval village. It’s the most serene spot and we were headed to a network of bridleways in a wood that was sandwiched between Ham Hill and the valley. It was at this point that Hannah’s medical issues came up properly.
Hannah was diagnosed in 2011 with kidney failure caused by swine flu whilst in her first year at the University of Birmingham where she was studying law. After carrying on for 2 years, her kidneys eventually failed in November 2013 and unfortunately had to put her studies on hold. Hannah began dialysis and had to attend 3 times per week for 4 hours at time. Hannah says that it felt as though her life had fallen apart.
At 05:31am on the 26th January 2018, Hannah received a phone call from Southmead Hospital in Bristol to say that they had found a kidney for her. She was asked to pack a bag, shower and make her way to Southmead as soon as possible. Hannah and her family arrived in Bristol at 8am and bloods were taken, tests undertaken and 2 hours of dialysis completed. Hannah underwent surgery at 12:30pm and woke up in recovery at 5pm with a working kidney. Everything seemed to have gone as planned but unfortunately her blood pressure dropped and she was rushed to ICU where she the next spent 48 hours. After a few hiccups, she was allowed home on the 6th of February. Sadly this was short lived and was readmitted numerous times over the next 3 months due to surgical issues which still haven’t been resolved, although they are stable.
A year and a 4 months later, life is amazing. Hannah is returning to University to finish her law degree in September 2019, working a full time job with YMCA and back out competing with her beloved Jack. Hannah says that Jack has been her therapy and soul mate throughout this ordeal and that he is like a child to her.
We had loads of fun in the woods. Possibly a bit dark at times, but it was all just a wonderful release for both Hannah and her mum, who followed on with kit bag containing meds for Hannah and treats for Jack. At one time I honestly though those party bucks were going to start as she led him through the woodland they frequently get to ride in. He was just so happy to be in there, even if this time his mum was on the floor leading him rather than on top. She did have a sneaky little sit though…
Since the diagnosis, so many of Hannah’s plans went out the window. You could say that she lost some of the best young adult years of her life traveling back and forth from hospitals and dialysis. Maggie said their whole lives were on hold. Passports went out of date. Pony parties obviously stopped. Even going for a walk was torture for Hannah. Today, things are much better thanks to the donation of a healthy kidney.
A donor can give life to so many people and Hannah’s donor has enabled her to enjoy the small things in life as drinking a pint of water, being able to go away for the weekend and simply spending quality time with Jack. Hannah says that her donor is “the hero she will never meet” and that she is determined to life her life to the full in his memory.
Hannah is living proof that donating your organs to save a life actually works.
It also helps having a seriously handsome, incredibly cheeky little pony at your side, ready to push the zest for life to the limits too….
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Have a fabulous week ahead…
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