This is the real me

This is the real me

Being told her BMI was too high for a kidney transplant was the moment everything changed for Pauline Obi. Here’s how the 35-year-old from Manchester lost 3st 5lbs* to save her life – and gave her that smile back.

‘Looking around me at the three other patients in the renal clinic at Manchester Royal Infirmary, all with a loved one by their side, I wished I’d brought my mum with me. I already knew my kidney was failing and I’d need a transplant. Now my hopes were about to be dealt a blow.

‘The kidney consultant turned his attention to me and, in front of all the other people in the room, said: ‘Your BMI is too high for you to be considered for a transplant.’ I’d just been through a bout of chemotherapy, and the steroids I’d been taking had increased my appetite for all my usual unhealthy foods and I’d gone from a size 12 to an 18 in a matter of weeks. Despite my frustration, I left the clinic with one thought firmly in my mind: ‘I’ll show you, pal.’

I needed a transplant to save my life and the only way was to lose weight

‘Hitting puberty had triggered a condition called lupus, a disease where the immune system attacks healthy tissue in your body. I’d always had a bubbly personality and this began to change as the illness brought with it bouts of depression. My way of coping was to seek refuge in food. In 2005 I’d had ground-breaking chemotherapy and it appeared to have stabilised my condition.

‘Just three months later, everything fell apart. I received word from the hospital in Manchester – my latest set of test results had come back and I was in kidney failure. I had to quit my job at a school and move back in with my mum and dad. While they welcomed me with open arms, I felt crushed.

‘I occasionally got up, or rarer still, went out of the house. I struggled to walk as the combination of my increasing weight and illness quickly made me breathless.

Sink or swim

‘The following May, I had to start dialysis – the kidney consultant told me I was too heavy to be considered for a transplant. The following week I joined Slimming World. I’d tried it before when I was 18, but I’d never found my focus. This time, the goal was very clear – I needed a transplant to save my life and the only way I was going to get one was by losing weight.

‘I joined a group and with my Consultant Jenny’s help, I began learning about Food Optimising and started to think how I could apply it to my favourite dishes. In our family, food is everything – Mum and Dad are from Nigeria and gatherings revolve around whatever’s bubbling away on the cooker.

‘One of my favourite meals was jollof rice: rice boiled with fried tomatoes and peppers. We also loved plantain, a form of banana, served as a side. I had no intention of giving any of them up – and I didn’t have to! We figured out how to cook plantain in an air fryer, using just a tiny amount of oil. As far as I was concerned, it tasted just as good!

‘By my next appointment the hospital, I’d lost just over a stone. The same kidney consultant came to see me. ‘Your BMI is 32. Well done,’ he said, smiling.

I grinned back and said nothing, although in my head I was thinking: ‘Yes! 1-0 to me.

‘With a safer BMI, I was placed on the transplant register. The weight came off steadily over the following two years and by the summer of 2013, I’d lost 3st 7lbs. For someone waiting to have a major operation, I felt pretty fantastic!

‘I celebrated hitting my 9st 12lb target by taking myself off for a shopping trip. I spotted a pair of shiny black, skin-tight trousers. Could I? Who did I think I was, Olivia Newton-John? The negative thoughts evaporated as I pulled them on and boogied around the changing room. I loved them! I wore them to a friend’s hen do and from that moment on, they became known to everyone as ‘Pauline’s Disco Pants’.

Operation Disco Pants

‘Just seven days before Christmas, my phone went and I answered it groggily. ‘Hello Pauline, this is the transplant coordinator from Manchester Royal Infirmary.’ A kidney was waiting for me.

‘The operation was successful and after being discharged from hospital, I went home to Mum’s to rest. Despite my kidney consultant advising me to stay healthy through the long period of inactivity, I fell back into my old habits. 

‘I put on a stone and suddenly I couldn’t fit into the clothes I’d bought to celebrate getting to target. One evening, I stood in front of the bedroom mirror and ruefully held up the shiny black trousers… ‘Operation Disco Pants’ was born!

‘I joined a different Slimming World group and got right back on plan. I told my group what I’d been through and how determined I was to get back to my pre-transplant weight. With their support, nine months later, I was 1st 5½lbs lighter – and there was only one way to celebrate!

I pulled on my shiny black pants and posted a triumphant picture on Instagram (@newkidneynewlife). Two operations had been completed and I felt better than ever!

‘After my kidney transplant, I wanted to live life to the full – I took up roller skating, climbed Snowdon and got myself a personal trainer. I felt such a surge of strength and positivity that I decided to set myself a new goal: to become a Slimming World Consultant.

'Soon afterwards I opened two groups in Manchester. It marked the beginning of a whole new chapter for me – now, I was back standing in front of a room full of lovely people, offering knowledge, experience and, I hope, inspiration. I vowed to myself I’d show that doctor – and I think I’ve shown the whole world!


*Weight loss will vary due to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose


*Weight loss will vary due to your individual circumstances and how much weight you have to lose

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