A national awareness event is being held in Edinburgh this month to raise awareness of altruistic kidney donation and highlight how it transforms lives.
Since 2006, people have been able to donate a kidney to someone unknown to them, purely because they want to help someone in need. To date, there have been over 390 altruistic kidney donations in the UK.
With 421 people in Scotland currently on the kidney transplant waiting list, the event will bring together altruistic donors, the transplant team involved in the process and a transplant recipient to speak about what altruistic donation involves and what it has meant to them. A panel of medical experts will also be on hand to answer questions.
Brian Robertson, 54, from Hawick, is one person who decided to give a stranger the ultimate gift, after hearing about altruistic kidney donation on the radio.
The former neuroscientist donated his kidney at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh in 2013 after the difference a transplant made to a friend’s life.
Brian said: “A couple of years ago, whilst making the tea, I was listening to a programme on Radio 4 where they interviewed a man that had given a kidney altruistically and that got me thinking. He was over seventy and I thought that if someone twenty years older than me can do that then so can I. I decided to find out more and spoke to my wife about it.
“It took about a year from me first enquiring to actual donation. It doesn’t happen quickly, they need to be sure you understand what you are doing, that you are doing it for all the right reasons and that you are completely certain about your decision. You also go through a psychological assessment to make sure you are fully prepared and committed.
“I only told my wife Lesley and some of my closest friends that I was considering it. I didn’t want my parents or brother and sister to worry.”
Brian told his mum and dad his decision just two days before the operation, dropping it casually into conversation.
He said: “My mum is a worrier and I didn’t want her to, so I told her at the last minute. She was against it at first but then she supported my decision, my father was very supportive too. I think they were pretty proud really.
“My wife Lesley was completely supportive the whole way. She understood my reasoning of course and it was her who had the tougher job of running around after me after the op.
After the various medical teams gave Brian the all clear for donation, his operation was scheduled for February 2013.
He said: “I travelled up to Edinburgh the day before for some last minute tests, to make sure I had no minor bugs and everything else was tickety boo. I was back out of theatre a few hours later that day and in the high dependency unit but I felt really good, tired but well. I was only in hospital three days and could have been out in two if I had lived closer.
“The recovery was fine. A few months later I was back to full manual labour, chopping logs, felling trees and helping build our new house. Now I’m fitter than I was this time last year.”
Brian doesn’t know anything about the recipient of his kidney, however knowing that he helped save someone’s life and freed them from dialysis is enough for him.
He said: “A couple of hours after the operation my consultant spoke to the hospital where the recipient got the kidney and was told that, the operation had gone exceedingly well and the kidney was working straight away. I thought that was enough for me and I’ve not really thought about it since to be honest.
“I’ve been pretty fortunate in my life; I’ve enjoyed good health, supportive family and friends and been lucky to have had great job and interesting career. I just wanted to give something back.”
The open information evening is on Thursday 30 April 2015, between 18.00-20.00 at Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh. To register interest call 0131 275 7925 or email firstname.lastname@example.org