One’s enough! A Different Kind of Normal.

Give A Kidney

In July 2013 my partner bought a top from a seller in Brighton on ebay. Two days later a parcel arrived at our house in plain brown paper hand decorated with lots of pictures of animals and characters like you would see on a children’s TV program. I didn’t pay any attention to it as it was just another kooky thing she bought or so I thought. About a week later I was clearing up when I came upon the wrapping paper and inside it was a little handwritten thank you card. The sellers name was Eleanor and she explained how she liked to thank everyone who bought from her as it made her happy to get positive feedback on her site. She went on to say that from time to time she sold stuff to bring in extra money for treats for her family as her husband was on dialysis having suffered renal failure and had lost his job. She wasn’t looking for anything other than to say thank you to a stranger and to spread a little joy.

I could feel myself welling up reading the letter a mixture of helplessness and anger, I thought to myself; this is the 21st century, surely, in this day and age people shouldn’t need to wait on someone to die to donate an organ and get a transplant. I put the wrapping paper and letter in a drawer and carried on tidying up, I was already signed up for the organ card in case of my death so I didn’t think any more of it other than at that moment if I could have offered her one of my kidneys to help I would have done. That might seem strange but that’s exactly how I felt. Every so often over the next couple of years I would come across the wrapping paper and letter, I would look at them and the same thoughts would come back again.

Then in November 2015 while sitting in the customary traffic standstill on the Edinburgh bypass I was listening to radio 5 when a segment came up on altruistic organ donation. It was an interview with a doctor from Hawick who had donated one of his kidneys to a stranger. As I listened to the ‘interview, the parcel and message from Eleanor in Brighton popped back into my head and in one of those moments of clarity I knew exactly what I wanted to do. When I got home I contacted the organ transplant team to find out what the process was for becoming a live donor. The process of interviews, physical and psychological examinations takes over a year and in Oct 2016 I received confirmation that I was accepted to be a live donor. I was surprised to find out during the process that a significant minority of people are born with only one kidney and live active and healthy lives. I learned that the lifestyle impact to live donors is negligible. I learned about the devastating impact kidney failure has on people’s lives not only financially but also physically and mentally both to individuals and their families. In conjunction with the donor co-ordinators it was decided the most beneficial way to donate was the pooled system, this system allows for a series of transplants to take place simultaneously triggered by the introduction of an altruistic donor. My operation date was scheduled for the Spring 2017 run and was carried out in March 2017. Three transplants were carried out that day, one in Northern Ireland, one in the West of Scotland and one in the North of England all resulting from this one donation from me. This was a very humbling yet proud feeling for me, I met some incredible people donors, recipients, doctors and nurses over the course of the last 2 years and the one thing that has really struck me is the lack of awareness of the Organ donation program, the misconceptions of what organ donation and kidney donation in particular means in relation to lifestyles and the general lack of awareness of the impact that organ failures has on people’s lives.

 

After the operation, I was introduced to Give a Kidney.org, this is a group set up by Donor and recipients to raise awareness of the living organ donor program and to highlight that people do not need 2 kidneys to live a healthy and normal life. I found out that in Scotland every year 16 people per million come forward for live donations, if this figure was 33 per million then Scotland could be the first country in the world to eliminate waiting lists for kidney transplants. I think this is an achievable and very worthy objective if more people were made aware of the issues and the programs.

My lifestyle is very active ,I climb and practise and teach martial arts and over the years I have used my climbing to raise money for charity projects in Durban South Africa(jabulani project),I thought this would be a fantastic opportunity to combine my passion form climbing with an campaign to raise awareness of the organ transplant program and show that there is no negative impact resulting from becoming a donor. Within 16 weeks I was back to boxing 12 rounds and able to hike the Skye Ridge by week 18.I am about to start training to tackle El Capitan ,an iconic and classic climb in America .The plan is to do the climb in 2019 earliest ,2020 spring latest and before then I am hoping to build up a campaign to highlight “give a kidney.org and the one will do message.

Everything changes in life, it is an inevitability of life. From the inspiration of Alex Wallace and his Jabulani project, came the idea for Jabulaniahoy. From the support of the sponsors and colleagues and friends came the incredible fundraising which literally helped change people’s lives and communities. From my involvement with Jabulani and Jabulaniahoy came changes in my own outlook on life and came the opportunity to become a donor which in itself has not only helped change other people’s lives but has also changed my life yet again and taken me in a new direction

My own Employer Balfour Beatty Kilpatrick has been through some significant changes over the last 3 years or so, but throughout one thing has remained constant and that was the support of each of my directors and for this I am extremely grateful. It is only by being part of an organisation such as Balfour Beatty that I was in a position to do what I did and hopefully by being part of Balfour Beatty I will be able to make the El Capitan challenge just as successful. I would like to thank in  particular Neil Wivell and Simon Lafferty for their support and they should know that it resulted in 3 people receiving a kidney transplant giving them another chance at a healthy normal life.

 

So Jabulaniahoy is taking a break for a while as I will be concentrating on training and planning for the big climb and campaign for which we have not yet settled on a name, it could be one of 3

  • A different kind of normal- this is what the surgeon described my internal vein structure as the day before my operation.
  • Letter to Eleanor – I want to send a letter of thanks to the lady who sent the thank you note and parcel to my partner back in 2013.
  • You only need one- the battle cry of give a kidney .org.

Thanks to everyone and dinnae fret I will be back to annoy you all again soon