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How a former nurse changed the life of her son

March 2018

A smiling Bart Rienties with his arms round the shoulders of his wife and mother

On 30 January 2018 Prof Dr Bart Rienties gave his Inaugural Lecture upon his appointment as Professor of Learning Analytics at the Open University.

For Prof Rienties, this milestone celebrates not only his academic achievement, but an important moment for his whole family. Ten years ago he received a living kidney donation from his mother.

The appointment as a Professor is not the only way that he is taking advantage of his new life: he is also an accomplished team cyclist.

Bart was training for the Transalp extreme cycle event in 2008, but soon realised his training was not going as he had hoped, and consulted a sports physician. Diagnosed with end-stage renal failure, he had to give up his dream, and began dialysis at home in the anticipation of the various medical checks needed to find a compatible donor.

Prof Rienties' parents both have a history in healthcare. His mother, Riny van Golde from Heerlen in the Netherlands, began nursing when she finished school, initially working in children’s surgery, and his father Ger also started life as a nurse. The family knows as well as anyone the devastating consequences of ill health.

Riny was absolutely delighted to be able to donate a kidney to her son. She says, "I have been able to give Bart a second chance to live a normal life, so that he can continue his passion and scientific career."

The transplant took place on 6 August 2008 at Maastricht University Hospital in the Netherlands, under the care of Dr Maarten Christiaans.

Like all transplant patients, Prof Rienties will require ongoing follow-up care and supervision, and is now looked after by the team at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford.

Dr Phil Mason, Consultant Nephrologist at Oxford Kidney Unit, Churchill Hospital, says:

"This is a wonderful example of the life-changing impact of a living donation. The generosity of living donors like Riny means recipients have the chance to live life to the absolute full, in both intellectually and physically challenging fields."

In 2017 Prof Rienties joined the World Transplant Games in Malaga, winning team gold in the cycling time trials while representing the Netherlands with friends and fellow transplant recipients Freek van Empel and Erik Pul.

The World Transplant Games is a bi-annual sporting event that brings together over 2000 athletes from more than 60 countries, to promote the physical success of transplant surgery, to raise public awareness and encourage others to consider becoming organ donors.

Prof Rienties says:

"I am eternally grateful to have been given a second chance to fulfil my dreams, and to help the people around me. Without this gift of life I would not have been able to become a Professor, and would not have had to pleasure to work with so many gifted researchers and teachers, who make a real impact improving the quality of education in the UK."

On World Kidney Day, 8 March 2018, NHS Blood and Transplant is appealing for more people to consider making a life-transforming donation while they are still alive.

Living kidney donation has always been a success story in the UK, accounting for more than 40 percent of all donors and a third of all kidney transplants for people waiting.

For suitable patients, transplantation is normally the best treatment for end stage kidney disease compared with dialysis.

Pictured: Bart Rienties with mother Riny and wife Keetie