As a live Kidney donor to my very good friend Howard, I thought it important to tell our story from the live donors side, hoping to encourage people to think about donating one of their kidneys and help save the life of a loved one either directly or through the Kidney Share Scheme.
Howard and I first met in nursery school in 1958 at the age of four, we became friends straight away, and could often be found playing in the Wendy House when we were supposed to be having our afternoon ‘nap time’.
We would meet up in the morning when putting our coats on our pegs, the picture on Howard’s peg was a teapot and mine was a dog, we still have a laugh about this and occasionally use them as nicknames.
We have fond memories of being in the school play, both of us having the part of Little Boy Blue. Howard was the lead as he had a talking part on stage and I was in the procession blowing a horn!
We went on to senior school and were put in different classes, but would meet up at break times and play football with a tennis ball.
On leaving school we went our separate ways, me joining the Royal Navy and Howard working in Local Government. I didn’t realise then that a special bond had been made between us.
About 20 years ago I went on to the Friends Reunited website and to my surprise Howard’s name came up. We got in touch and Howard seemed just as I remembered, we arranged to meet up with him and his wife Adele. My wife Hazel said ‘what if you haven’t got anything in common with Howard after all this time?’
There was no need to worry; as soon as we met we all got on like a house on fire. It was as if we’d never been apart. Our friendship rekindled and the four of us continue to see each other regularly.
We knew Howard was starting to feel unwell in 2018, his kidneys were failing. He was making regular trips to the hospital and ultimately had to go on dialysis but we managed to keep our meetings up though he was becoming quite poorly. It would only be after the transplant that we all fully realised just how his kidney problems had been impairing his life.
It was at this point that I decided that I would offer one of my kidneys. I hadn’t mentioned it to Hazel until one night we were visiting Howard and Adele at their home. She was absolutely fine with it.
Howard and Adele were in the kitchen preparing a meal; I first mentioned it to Adele when she came back into the room. She said thank you but thought Howard would find it hard to accept my offer, he had told her he could never ask someone to donate a kidney for him. She felt it best to tell Howard when they were on their own and give him time for consideration and not to make it an emotional topic for the evening.
Howard phoned me the following day, he was quite moved and after we had a good long chat about it he accepted my offer. The next day I phoned the Renal Unit at the MRI and our kidney journey began…
After many scans and tests over a period of time to ensure both myself and my kidney were in good health we were given a date for transplant.
We arrived the night before the transplant and were placed in separate areas of the ward, very shortly after we were told we needed chest x-rays and asked to go down to the x-ray department. With no real idea of where we were going, the hospital was in evening mode, the corridors quiet, when we did find the department the reception was closed and we knocked on a door to gain access. We both sat there in an otherwise silent hospital awaiting the X-rays while others were sleeping, we couldn’t help but think it was a little like being back at Nursery school, whilst others were taking a nap we were wide awake and pondering the following day.
Whilst in hospital both Howard and I saw several people come in for a transplant. It was often in the middle of the night, sometimes from a long distance, following a phone call to say there was a possible kidney available. Unfortunately some were then sent home because either the kidney wasn’t suitable or because they were the reserve and the first person called was to be given the kidney. Inevitably part of the process but must be so hard and distressing, for some it was not the first time it had happened to them.
As a live donor, short of something unexpected, all the checks had been done and having got into hospital Howard and I knew he would get his transplant the following day.
I donated my kidney to Howard on 27th September 2019. Thanks to the great team at the MRI the transplant was a success and both Howard and I are continuing to do well!