The Inspired Journal

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John and Michael’s Journey: ‘The perspective of a donor’

As a live kidney donor for my dear friend Michael, I believe it’s important to share our story from the perspective of a donor. Our hope is that by sharing our experience, we can inspire others to consider kidney donation and potentially save the life of a loved one, either directly or through kidney exchange programs.

Michael and I first crossed paths back in nursery school in 1958 when we were just four years old. Our friendship blossomed instantly, and we could often be found playing together, especially in the Wendy House during our supposed afternoon nap time.

Our morning routine of hanging up our coats on pegs was a source of amusement. Michael’s peg had a teapot picture, while mine featured a dog. To this day, we occasionally use these as playful nicknames.

We cherish memories of our joint role as “Little Boy Blue” in a school play. Michael played the lead with speaking lines, and I was part of the procession, tooting a horn.

After completing nursery school, we moved on to different classes in senior school. Despite the separation, we always met during breaks to enjoy a game of football with a tennis ball.

Life led us in diverse directions after school. I joined the Royal Navy, while Michael pursued a career in Local Government. Little did I know that a deep, lifelong bond had already formed between us.

About two decades ago, I stumbled upon the Friends Reunited website and found Michael’s name. We reconnected, and to my delight, Michael remained just as I remembered. We arranged to meet with his wife Alice. My wife Margaret had concerns about whether we’d still have anything in common after all those years apart. However, those worries quickly vanished when we reunited. It felt as though we had never been apart, and our friendship was rekindled.

In 2018, we noticed that Michael was starting to feel unwell as his kidneys were failing. Frequent hospital visits and the need for dialysis became a part of his life. Despite his declining health, we persevered with our regular meetings. Only after the transplant did we truly realize the extent to which kidney problems had impacted his life.

It was at this juncture that I decided to offer one of my kidneys. I hadn’t discussed it with Margaret until one evening when we were visiting Michael and Alice at their home. To my relief, Margaret was completely supportive.

While Michael and Alice were preparing a meal in the kitchen, I broached the subject with Alice when she returned to the room. She expressed her gratitude but was concerned that Michael might find it difficult to accept my offer. He had told her that he could never ask someone to donate a kidney for him. Alice believed it was best to discuss this privately with Michael to give him ample time for consideration without making it an emotionally charged topic for the evening.

Michael called me the following day, moved by my offer. After a heartfelt conversation, he accepted. The next day, I contacted the Renal Unit at the hospital, and our journey as kidney donor and recipient began.

Numerous scans and tests were conducted over a period to ensure both my health and my kidney’s suitability. Once everything checked out, we received a transplant date.

We arrived at the hospital the night before the transplant, allocated to different areas of the ward. Shortly after, we were informed that we needed chest x-rays and were directed to the x-ray department. With little idea of where we were going and the hospital quiet at that hour, it felt somewhat reminiscent of our nursery school days. While others were resting, we were wide awake, contemplating the day ahead.

During our time in the hospital, we observed several people coming in for transplants. Often, it happened in the middle of the night, sometimes involving long journeys following a phone call notifying them of a potential kidney. Regrettably, some were later sent home due to unsuitability or because they were the backup recipients, with the primary recipient receiving the kidney. While this is part of the process, it undoubtedly brings distress to those affected, especially if it’s not their first experience of such disappointment.

As a live donor, barring any unforeseen circumstances, we had already undergone thorough checks, and once in the hospital, both Michael and I knew that the transplant would proceed as planned the following day.

I donated my kidney to Michael on September 27, 2019. Thanks to the exceptional team at the hospital, the transplant was successful, and both Michael and I continue to enjoy good health and well-being!

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