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Marianne’s Story

Around eight years ago, my brother Michael started feeling unwell. He didn’t know what exactly was wrong, but knew that it was something more than a regular illness. We went to hospital, and after some tests it came to light that his kidney function was only a third of what it should be. There was no history of kidney issues in my family, and Michael was a relatively healthy person with no other major medical issues, so the diagnosis really came out of the blue for us. 

He was monitored by the hospital for several years after that. For a while his kidneys teetered on 15% of their usual function, but as he dropped the symptoms came. He was always exhausted.  He got bumps on his legs and started to really suffer from itchy skin. When he lifted his arm, his armpits were red raw. He told us that it was the worst when he was laying there at night, to the point where he couldn’t help but scratch.  

They told us that if (or when) Michael’s kidney function went down to 10%, then he would need to look for a kidney donation. He was in a very lucky position where as soon as we were told that, so many friends and family came forward offering to put themselves forward to see if they were a match and could donate to him. In the end, myself and his best friend Greg decided we would be the first to see if we were a match. 

 

The first Zoom call we had with the living donor coordinator was really eye-opening. They talked us through what’s actually involved in donating, how it would affect us, and also told us about the ‘UK Living Kidney Sharing Scheme’, which would mean that we could donate a kidney to someone else on the waiting list in order for Michael to receive his own kidney from someone else who was a better match for him.  

Wow!  

It took a few seconds for me to understand the idea – it was a bit confusing at first and I didn’t immediately know if I would be comfortable donating to someone I didn’t know. But then I realised the benefits of it. It’d be exactly the same for us. I’d still donate a kidney and Michael would receive one, but it meant even more people would benefit. Plus, Michael would receive an even better kidney match, and whoever received mine would also get a better matching kidney!  

After that, the tests started to see if either of us were a match for Michael. Going through all the tests was such a bonding experience for the whole family. I was already very close with my brother, but it brought us even closer together. It enriched our lives in a way I didn’t know it would.  

The team at Hammersmith hospital were absolutely incredible throughout the whole process. They were always there to answer any questions we had, no matter what we wanted to ask, and point us in the right direction for any support we needed. They made it clear that, as a donor, I was always the one in control. I could change my mind at any point in the process, no matter how far along we were. There was no question that I was going through with it, but I always appreciated that. 

After the first round of tests, we were told that I was the best match for my brother. So, I moved forward with the tests to make sure I was healthy enough to donate. It was made clear from the very beginning that my health came first, and that I could only donate if I was healthy enough to do so and wasn’t susceptible to any problems in the future. 

There were certainly some bumps in the road along the way. Whenever they noticed something and asked for more tests to be done, I felt like my heart skipped a beat. At one point I was told that they had found protein in my urine, which they needed to look into further to make sure my kidneys were healthy for donating to Michael. All I wanted to do was help my brother. I knew there were many more people ready to step up if I couldn’t, but it was something I really wanted to do, so those checks were quite hard on me. 

One day in Summer, the consultant phoned me and said that they were happy with all my test results, and asked me to pick a date for our transplant! As soon as I put the phone down, I called Michael. 

“What are you doing on this day?” I asked him.  

“I don’t know, I’ll have to check,” he answered. “Why?” 

“Because I’m donating a kidney to you that day!” 

We went into hospital together on the day of our operation, and were put in the same ward as each other, side by side, to help with our recovery.  

Everything happened so smoothly, and I couldn’t say enough good things about everyone at the hospital. Michael’s improvement was instant. We literally saw his health improve in front of our eyes.  

I remember waking up after the operation and seeing my brother in the bed next to me. I knew he had been anxious to make sure I was okay, so I immediately jumped to my feet (not without some difficulty, as I’d just had major surgery!) to show him everything was fine!  

I was out of hospital after a couple of days, then a couple of days after that Michael was out of hospital too.  

When you mention living kidney donation, it’s amazing when you mention living kidney donation how many people have their own experiences and stories to tell. Donating has really opened up a community to me.  

The kidney donation hasn’t impacted my life in any shape or form. It was a major surgery so I definitely did feel tired for several weeks after, but it went away. I have a small scar, but it’s so much smaller than I expected. You can barely see it! 

The experience has really opened my eyes, and I feel so blessed that I was able to offer Michael one of my kidneys. I had no idea just how many people are out there suffering, waiting for a kidney. I donated myself, but even I didn’t know anything about it until I’d already made up my mind that I was going to do it. I saw firsthand the benefits that kidney donation can give a family. If I’d only known earlier in my life then I’d have done it years before. If I had more kidneys to give, I’d do it again tomorrow! 

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