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A youth worker has described his “new lease of life” after taking part in a kidney swap scheme. Darrel Robinson’s kidney function deteriorated over three decades due to a long-term condition called glomerulonephritis, which leads to damage to the tiny filters inside the kidneys.
Around two years ago, the 59-year-old from Castleford, West Yorkshire, was told that his kidney function had dipped to just 14% and that it was time to start considering a transplant or to be put on dialysis. His wife’s friend Hayley McCarthy, 38, from Wakefield, heard of his plight and offered to be tested to see if she was a match and could donate one of her kidneys.
But the mother-of-two was incompatible with Mr Robinson – which can occur when a donor’s blood or tissue type does not match that of the organ recipient. So medics at St James’s renal unit at Leeds Hospital told them about a kidney pairing scheme.
When someone in need of a kidney has a willing donor but they are incompatible, it may be possible for them to be “matched” with another couple in a similar situation and for the donor kidneys to be “exchanged” or “swapped”. A similar couple were found and the swap was arranged.
The pair had the surgeries on February 11 and are recovering well. They have spoken about the experience on World Kidney Day, as NHS officials have revealed almost 4,600 people are currently waiting for a kidney donation in the UK.
Mr Robinson, a father-of-one, told the PA news agency: “I’d been ill for a number of years, probably for about 30 years my kidneys had been depreciating as a result of something called glomerulonephritis. My kidney function got to 14% and my doctor told me I would need dialysis or a kidney transplant.
“My wife was having a conversation with her friend Hayley and without any thinking Hayley wanted to step forward and be tested (to see if she was a match).” But to their disappointment Mrs McCarthy was not a match so they decided to take part in the kidney sharing scheme.
“On the day of the surgery, Hayley went into surgery in the morning, and her kidney went flying out of St James’s,” Mr Robinson said. “And then I went down to surgery late that evening when a kidney came into St James’s that was a better match for me – the coordination of all that, it just beggars belief.”
He added: “In my mind I feel like Hayley has donated directly to me. I feel now got a really emotional connection with Hayley which will go on forever as a result of what she’s done for me. I’m so grateful for everything that’s happened. I feel like I’ve got a new lease of life.
“I feel a lot more brighter, less tired. Thank you just doesn’t cut it, there aren’t enough words to express the thanks I have for Hayley for doing this, and the people around the country who are donating.” Mr Robinson’s kidney function is now around 70% and he now has normal blood pressure. Mrs McCarthy, mother of two children – Mabel aged six and Sonny aged three, told PA: “Two years ago I was texting one of my friends and I just asked how their family was.
“She said that her husband Darrel’s kidney disease had just really escalated and that he was needing a kidney or to go on dialysis. There was not a match within their family. I asked if there was any chance I could help. For me it was just really black and white. I wanted to be able to help them knowing that there wasn’t anyone else.”
She continued: “I went in for the test and found I wasn’t a match for Darrel by blood and by tissue match. I thought that was the end of the road and the story for me which was quite heartbreaking. Then my donor team got in touch and said `this is your option, you can either take yourself out of it and he’s got to go on to the big long donor list or you can pair up’. For me, it was again, a no-brainer.
“It meant that Darrel got a kidney but I gave my kidney to another recipient so I became a donor for somebody else.” Mrs McCarthy, who works as a learning mentor in a Leeds school, added: “I know that in the long run my health will just be a slow and steady thing that picks up, but to see him immediately feeling the benefits is amazing. Darrel has still got a kidney out of this because of the shared donor scheme. I just think it’s amazing.”
She added: “I would urge people to look into it, if you have got half a thought that this could be something to do, not for a hero badge but just if you have got a spare, like I had a spare and it is something you can fit in your lifestyle, then I would urge people to look into it because 4,500 people that need that kidney could be sorted out overnight. You would make people work a lot harder in these donor centres pairing all these people up but that list could essentially be cleared.”
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