For Martin Smith, from Piercebridge, it all began with a television advert highlighting organ donation.
Being a registered donor already, he decided to check on his registration on-line and came across a website entitled altruistic living kidney donation – a relatively new programme (2007) with only about 100 altruistic donations to date in the UK.
“My wife died three years ago from breast cancer, and towards the end of her life there were no treatment options available for her, but there are options for a patient with kidney failure, and the best option is a living kidney transplant, which can transform the life of the patient for the better.
“After extensive reading of case studies on living kidney donation, I decided to contact James Cook’s renal day unit and arranged an appointment for an initial interview.
“This consisted of an informal chat with the Transplant Specialist Nurse about my motivation for becoming a donor, an outline of the assessment process and a medical history check. All went OK and another appointment was made for blood tests, ECG and x-rays, which all went well.
“Several weeks later I was interviewed by a consultant psychiatrist to ascertain my mental suitability for donation. This involved family history questioning and psychiatric tests. All was fine and I went onto the next stage.
“A full day appointment was made for a CT scan and x-rays, which involved a visit to the nuclear medicine department, where I was given a low level radiation injection to highlight the kidneys for the scan to check for health and function.
“The injection takes a few hours to accumulate in the kidneys, and I had various blood tests and an interview with the consultant nephrologist, who talked about the donor/transplant procedure and the risks involved.
“A few weeks later a letter arrived informing me all the tests were normal and I was suitable to be a donor. An appointment was made at the Freeman Hospital to meet the transplant surgeon and the transplant and post-operative care procedures were explained and the pre-op assessment carried out.
“I met the Human Tissue Authority independent assessor at James Cook for final permission for donation. The next stage was registration on the donor/transplant list and blood/tissue cross matching to find a suitable recipient.
“A suitable recipient was found within 48hrs of registration and it turned out to be a 51 year old lady in Manchester (same age as my late wife) who was a perfect match. A blood test was arranged for antibody checks and the transplant date was set.
“Two weeks later the operations took place with my donor kidney being removed at the Freeman Hospital and couriered over the Pennines to Manchester, where the recipient transplant team were waiting. All went to plan, the following day I heard the lady recipient’s new kidney was functioning and she was doing well.
“My post op care at the Freeman was excellent and I was back home within five days. Up to six weeks is the usual time to recover fully, and at the time of writing I was in the first week of recovery, feeling sore and very tired, but the eleven months of tests and interviews and finally, the donation itself, have been well worth it.
“So what are the benefits? To the recipient they are obvious, to myself, the knowledge my lady recipient in Manchester now has her life back. Any regrets? Maybe just one! As an altruistic living kidney donor, I can only do it once.”
If you have a friend or relative affected by kidney disease and would like to know more about living kidney donation please Alison Callaway, contact transplant specialist nurse on 01642 854732, extension 54732 JCUH. The NHS website www.organdonation.nhs.uk gives more information and patient stories.