Decision day for 72 year-old Ernie Kirkbridge from Castleton, Whitby was 4 August 2009. His kidney function had been deteriorating for a number of years and dialysis or transplant would be needed during the next year.
His wife, June, accompanied Ernie to his appointment with his consultant, listened to the options and offered to donate a kidney. Donation had been on June’s mind for a long while, unknown by Ernie, her only concern being at 70, she would be too old.
This was not the case and the couple’s interesting experience of organ donation began. June tells us all about it.
“I was happy initial tests carried out by the transplant co-ordinator showed we were a match and I was healthy enough to proceed to the next stage – referral to a nephrology consultant.
“This happened in December 2009 and, over the next few months, a series of kidney scans and x-rays were carried out to ensure one of my kidneys was suitable for donation.
“Much to people’s surprise I looked forward to each scan or x-ray. After all each one took me closer to donation, but, in spite of a deep seated belief that the transplant would go ahead, I was always nervous when going to see the consultant for the results of tests.
“My concern was misplaced and the testing continued to the point where my consultant was happy, I was able to donate, and Ernie and I were referred to the Freeman Hospital, and we started the process leading to transplant day. We had hoped Ernie would have a transplant before he needed dialysis but that was not to be the case and Ernie started kidney dialysis.
“We were interviewed by an independent assessor from the Human Tissue Authority to establish the reasons I had for donating, to make sure we were both happy to go ahead with the transplant and to ensure that I was donating knowing the risks associated with the surgery. All went well and finally 8 December 2010 was set as the transplant date.
“The transplanted kidney worked well from the start. Ernie was discharged 12 days after the transplant and I was discharged two days after surgery. We were both very pleasantly surprised at the low level of discomfort experienced after the surgery.
“From our point of view the transplant has been an amazing success. Six months after the surgery we were walking in the Scottish hills, not climbing quite as high or walking quite as fast as previously, but, nevertheless life appeared to be normal after a year of feeling we were on a roller coaster.
“Ernie’s return to health has been a joy to witness. However, we are not complacent and are immensely grateful for each day. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the skill and care of all the NHS staff involved in our transplant experience.”