Brian West, 56, from Skinningrove was given the bad news two years ago that due to an inherited disease called polycystic kidneys he was going to have to go on renal dialysis.
His consultant nephrologist mentioned the possibility of a transplant and wife Kathy volunteered straight away and all the various tests, physical as well as psychological, started.
“All I had to do was give blood and a spell on a fitness bike to check I was fit enough for an operation. Kathy on the other hand had x rays, ECG’s, CT scans and injections of low level radiation to check on how well her kidneys were functioning.
“She also had meetings with her consultant nephrologist to discuss risks and to ascertain that she was not under any pressure to donate.
“Our blood and tissue types were cross matched – unfortunately Kathy is blood group A and I am blood group O. Our antibodies were at the top end of the scale, which at the time, meant Kathy was unlikely to be able to donate to me.
“We were put on the pairing scheme which tries to find a swap for Kathy’s kidney. Unfortunately this didn’t work for us, so we went to the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle to meet Mr David Talbot, consultant transplant surgeon who, along with his team and the team at James Cook, decided to try to desensitise me to allow the transplant to proceed.
“A few weeks before my admission to the transplant unit, I was put on a drip to kill off my white blood cells. I had my first five hour session on the desensitisation machine – similar to a dialysis machine but with very clever filters to remove antibodies at the Freeman. This was repeated every day for 10 days until the day for the transplant.
“Kathy had been admitted and was prepared and ready for the op. My blood tests came back and my antibodies were still too high, so the op was cancelled, and Kathy returned home disappointed.
“Mr Talbot and his team decided to try a new type of tower filter in a new machine, so as well as continuing on the original machine, I had a session on the new one.
“The results from the blood tests were favourable so the operation went ahead. I was put on the desensitisation machine while in the operating theatre and again the following day to make certain the antibodies remained low.
“After three weeks Kathy was back to her normal self, and at the time of writing – six weeks after my operation – I have had a few problems with some of the tablets, but my health is improving day by day.
“A big thank you to my best friends – the doctors and nurses at the Freeman and James Cook.”