Giving your kidney to someone you don't know is called Altruistic donation or non-directed donation.
The oldest altruistic donor in the UK is 82 years old. The youngest is 25 years old.
One of the advantages of getting older is that I no longer have any dependants and so have the total freedom to do as I please! My son, Matthew, had long left home and set up his own life. I was at a stage in my life where I was free to do my own thing. Someone I knew abroad donated their kidney to someone they did not know back in early 2006. When I heard about this, my jaw hit the floor! I knew you could donate a kidney to family or friends but not to someone who was a total stranger. I was blown away by the idea. It just amazed me that you could give up one of your kidney's - give it to someone else and actually save their life/give them their life back, and give them back to their family, as it is the whole family that suffers. I can't explain why, but I was hit with this huge emotional desire to do the same thing.
I knew that this was too serious a matter to be ruled by my heart alone and so the brain would have to get into gear. My initial research showed that it was not possible to donate to a stranger in this country as there was no legal framework set up. I put the whole idea on the backburner, knowing that before long the UK would catch up with the USA!
Late 2006 the legal framework was put into place for people in the UK to donate one of their kidneys to a stranger. I didn't actually get to find this out until early 2007 and quickly started my research. Was I too old? What about my existing under active thyroid? What was the operation like? What are the risk of the operation? And more to the point the risks of living with only one kidney? Surely we had two for a reason. Then there were other aspects to take into account. What about my son? What if one day he needed a kidney and I had already given my "spare" away? Even if I was satisfied with all the answers I came up with, I would need up to 3 months off work, I knew they wouldn't let me take that. Then there was my dog!! Popsi was 14 years old, partly deaf and her sight not brilliant. She had become dependant upon me being at home a lot and really stressed if I left her for any length of time. Who could I get to look after her? Even though I really still wanted to donate my kidney I was not going to put myself forward unless I was 100% comfortable with all aspects. Maybe there was a reason something was holding me back? Maybe I was not meant to donate my kidney?
Then in 2008 within a matter of three months I went from having good eyesight to full blown cataracts where I had to take leave from my job as could no longer see to do it, and was now illegal for me to drive. I spent the next month living in a darkened room and only going out at night to do the shopping. By the time my first eye was operated on I was needing someone to guide me. I have to say on the way down to the operating room the nurses were queuing up to see my "cataract" as they had never seen one so advanced!! Anyway, by the time the second eye was operated on my job was no longer mine. Having been told I either had to resign, be sacked or take extended leave. I was encouraged to take extended leave. How bad an idea that turned out. I never did get my job back. Over the next 6 months I patiently waited for my job to be given back. Phone calls and a letter produced nothing. During that time, very sadly my lovely dog had to be put down. By the end of the year I realised there was now nothing standing in my way of donating a kidney!! No job worry about and [sadly] no pets to worry over either. We were right on top of Christmas so decided in the new year to contact my doctor.
This I did and the doctor put me in contact with the transplant co-ordinator at Churchill Hospital, Oxford. My two important questions were 1) Was I too old at 58 years. Answer: No, there is no upper age limit. and 2) what about my thyroid, again answer was - No.
Over the next year I underwent various evaluation tests. MRI scans, GFR test, urine and blood samples taken on each visit. X-rays, ultra sound scans and all sorts of physical tests I was put through. I also had to undergo a psychological and psychiatric evaluation. They needed to make sure I was not offering my kidney for reward or under coercion to do this. They also needed to make sure I was donating for the right reasons and had stability at home. They needed to make sure that emotionally I was stable and could cope if things went wrong. For example what if during the evaluation they found something wrong with me? would I be prepared for that.
Eventually I passed all the evaluation tests and the HTA were asked for permission for me to donate. This was given. So last year I got to donate my kidney to someone I did not know. If you want to know more, about the operation, recovery etc then please read my website Living Kidney Donation - the main links are on the left.
If I had another spare kidney I would give that one away also. When we die, there is no guarantee our organs will be viable, so many are not. I also felt I wanted to make sure at least one organ helped save someone.
My age had a lot to do with donating. Had my son still been at home and dependant upon me, no way would I have donated. There would have been every opportunity to donate once he had flown the nest. So getting older for me has meant I was able to give the greatest gift I could imagine giving someone - their life back.
People ask me about the risks of the operation. Did you know that there is more risk of dying from having a hip replacement (1:1000) than the operation to donate a kidney (1:3000). What if my son ever needed a kidney? You know, just because we are related to someone does not mean we are compatible when it comes to donating an organ. The chances of him every needing a kidney are remote and I was not going to put my life on hold ... just in case!
How am I able to live with just one kidney? Surely we need two? No, in fact we do not need two kidneys. Both kidneys under perform anyway as they do not need to work at full capacity. Once a kidney is removed, the other kidney takes on some extra filtration work to compensate and our body is looked after by that one kidney just as efficiently.
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