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family photo
Photo credit Rosie Cutbill Photography

My parents were ahead of their time in terms of fitness. My brothers and I were born into a family where being active was just something we did. I grew up in Johannesburg and at the time there was not a gym on every street corner – or any gyms at all – in fact I’m not sure I would have known what a gym is – apart from the one I went to for gymnastics.

My school life was dominated by sport, especially in my senior years. When I was 16 my Dad was transferred to London for work. All through school I had wanted to be a school P.E teacher but after moving to London that changed as my access to school sport was non-existent. So after school I went on a gap year and then went to study Hotel Management – why? I still have no idea.

After having my two eldest boys – both with renal nephritis – for my eldest it was a congenital problem and for the second it was due to a urine infection, that became septicaemia which resulted in the loss of most function to one kidney.

I was drawn to delving into their  renal conditions, one thing led to another and I did a Master of Clinical Exercise Physiology (Rehab).  Fourteen months ago my second son who is now 17 was put on blood pressure medication as his blood pressure was in a zone that was unsafe for the function his kidneys long term. The kidneys are the “heart” of blood pressure regulation. Having been put on medication we were only due to see the specialist again in a years time.

Thankfully due to my profession – I kept a close eye on his blood pressure and it was unchanged by the medication – so I made a call and the medication was increased , this went on for months as the medication was not working and  blood pressure was still unchanged.  I wanted to check there was nothing underlying this so I went to the GP and organised for him to have an echocardiogram to see if his heart was the problem. This was all normal. This  process went on until 10 weeks ago when I made an appointment with the specialist because I was concerned with the lack of change in his BP. I was pushing for other things we could try to bring the blood pressure down. As a fit boy of 17 there had to be another problem. The specialist offered a doppler scan of the kidneys, although she did not expect to see anything.

The doppler test was done and in the scan I could see the problem – the renal artery to his good kidney was over 60% narrowed. We were relieved to have found the cause of the problem. We then went to see a vascular surgeon and my son will have an angioplasty to balloon the arteries to both kidneys this week. Due to an infection at a year old, my son has left kidney is very damaged and the right kidney does the majority of the function so the bonus of this story is that had I not gone into clinical exercise physiology, the only way we would have found out there was a problem was when the good kidney gave up because it wasn’t getting enough blood and then we would be looking at a transplant rather than a easy procedure.

I believe I have been guided into my profession in order to have the skills to know that something was not right and I can use my experience to help others through my practice.


Sue Cutbill Exercise Physiology

Conveniently located inside Energize Health Club, Belrose, services open to members and non-members