Two women, one fate: How a mother and daughter bonded over dialysis

All of us face challenges in life. Time and again, we have to find new ways to cope and overcome obstacles dropped in our path. Here we share an inspiring story about how a mother and daughter learnt to overcome their personal challenges to keep on enjoying life.

Mother and daughter Hatice Akel and Tülay İğci have more in common similar looks and shared genes. Three times a week they travel together to the NephroCare centre Konya, Turkey for dialysis. Tülay İğci became acquainted with hospital halls when she was a young girl. Her mother, on the other hand, first found out about her renal failure when she tried to donate one of her own kidneys to her daughter. Let’s hear their unique story told in their own words.

Receiving the diagnosis

Hatice Akel: I was born in 1952 as the youngest daughter in a family of farmers. I grew up like an only child because my older siblings soon moved out and led their own lives. At just 14, I became a bride myself. Not long after, I gave birth to two girls, one of which I named Tülay. Later, I also had a son.

Even before getting married I experienced swelling in my feet but was never in pain. For Tülay things were different. When she was 10 or 12, she developed an itchy rash, something people around here call ‘bulgur shedding’. We took her to the doctor many times, but no one could identify the cause.

Tülay İğci: Shortly after finishing primary school, I also began feeling nauseous and had swelling and weight problems. When my doctor couldn’t make a diagnosis, my family took me to Istanbul University, Çapa Faculty of Medicine. There I learnt there were some problems with my kidneys.

Hatice Akel: Tülay’s doctor in Istanbul told us my daughter needed a kidney transplant and I jumped at the chance to give her one of mine. As part of the screening to donate, the doctor ran some tests on me. That’s how we discovered I, too, had kidney problems. I later learnt our kidney disease is genetic and I passed it to Tülay, but not my other children. That very day in 2003 on which I was diagnosed I also started dialysis, and have been on it ever since.

Tülay İğci: This time in our lives was challenging for all of us. We moved to Ankara so the doctor’s could closely monitor me. It was hard to be away from our home and my family also struggled financially. My mum was really relieved when my dad found a new job as a dishwasher at a restaurant and got health insurance for our whole family. 

"Thanks to dialysis, life goes on. We are so happy to receive treatment for our condition. I cheer myself up by reminding myself how every day is better than the last, something I believe wholeheartedly." - Hatice Akel

From struggle to acceptance

Hatice Akel: As Tülay’s mother, it was hard at first to accept my daughter’s illness, especially after she suffered a stroke related to high blood pressure. In parallel, our family faced other setbacks. My husband was involved in a car accident and became disabled, so not only was I taking care of my husband and daughter, I was also working for a cleaning company to support our family and had my own health to think about.

Tülay İğci: In retrospect I know that sticking together is what got us through hard times. But even today, my mother can’t be on the same floor of the clinic as me during dialysis. She always worries something will go wrong when the nurses are taking care of me. That’s why we go to different floors for treatment, a suggestion made by the clinic’s head nurse. It may sounds strange to outsiders, but the solution works for us.

On sharing more than genes

Hatice Akel: Kidney disease has taught me and Tülay that life is filled with moments of delight and moments of struggle. When facing the latter, like diagnosis of an illness, we should never become desperate and give up. Being surrounded by supportive people is really important when times are hard. I’m so happy to have Tülay and the rest of my family in my life.

Tülay İğci: Sharing a similar fate has brought us closer together. My mum and I are more than just mother and daughter: we are like friends or sisters who try to help each other physically and morally.

Positive about the future

Hatice Akel: I am pleased to say things are much better now. Yes, life is not always easy, but we try to make the best out of our situation and focus on the positive aspects. Our family has grown closer through the whole experience.

Tülay İğci: In 2001, I got married to my wonderful husband. He supports my decision to pursue a donor kidney and helped me apply to the hospital in Ankara for a kidney transplant. For as long as I can remember, my mother and husband have motivated me to carry on and enjoy life – even after all we have been through. After many years spent in other cities, today we are happy to be back in our village near Konya. It’s great there is a NephroCare clinic here. Their services are perfect and the staff are really interested in us as individuals. Both my mother and I thank the team wholeheartedly.