The Evening Post revealed on Saturday how an 85-year-old woman had become the oldest person in the country to donate a kidney while still alive. AASMA DAY talks to Lancashire woman Claire Ramsden about why she too decided to donate one of her kidneys to a complete stranger.
Claire Ramsden was always used to sharing and caring, and the idea of donating was not unusual to her as she had been a blood donor for years and then a platelet donor.
However, she had no idea that people could donate one of their kidneys while alive, or that the human body could survive perfectly well with just one kidney.
So after reading about living kidney donation in the media, Claire, 38, who lives in Kirkham, near Preston, became intrigued by the idea and wondered if there was any way she could help someone by donating one of her kidneys.
Claire, who is married to Gary and has two step-children, says: “Until I read about living kidney donation in the media, I had no idea it existed and I immediately wondered if it was something I could do, both physically and psychologically.
“I began researching the internet to educate and reassure myself how and why we can live with one kidney and, the more I looked into it, the more I realised it was something I could do.
“Kidney disease was a world far removed from my own and I did not know anyone who was on dialysis or had donated a kidney or needed a transplant.
“I thought it was fascinating and interesting that you could help another person by donating your kidney and I thought if I could do it, I would.
“I had no idea a person would live just as well with just one kidney, so I thought ‘why not give one of mine to help someone else’.”
Claire spent time researching and speaking to other kidney donors before contacting the local donor co-ordinator at Royal Preston Hospital.
Tests took place over a six-month period and revealed Claire had more than enough kidney function, so she made the decision to proceed with the donation.
Claire, who is a psychologist, says: “Every step of the way, I was told that I could change my mind at any moment.
“But the more I found out about the procedure, the more I realised it was something I really wanted to do.”
However, Claire admits her family had strong reservations about her giving away one of her kidneys and tried their best to talk her out of it.
Claire says: “It is not uncommon for family members to be resistant, and I can sort of understand as no one wants one of their loved ones to go through unnecessary surgery.
“Coping with my family being so strongly against me donating my kidney was one of the hardest parts of the whole process for me. At one point, I even came close to withdrawing from the procedure.
“But my philosophy is that we don’t have the technology to give people a new kidney and people need other people to help them.
“We need to share what we have got to help each other, otherwise problems will continue.
“As I researched the procedure, I filled my husband in along the way and he was okay with me doing it.
“But my mum and my siblings found it difficult to come to terms with and tried to talk me out of it.
“I started to find it very hard to cope with and draining.
“However, I felt it was important for me to go through with the kidney donation, so I did.”
Claire underwent surgery in December and one of her kidneys was gifted to a complete stranger.
She was only in hospital for three days and, after six days, she was off pain medication, and four weeks later, she returned to the gym.
Claire says: “All in all, the six months of tests were fascinating, the NHS staff were fantastic, and my surgeon was brilliant. As a donor, I realise that despite of the wonderful advances in modern medicine, people still need people.
“I gave blood because I could spare a pint. I donate platelets because I have more than enough platelets.
“I donated a kidney because I had more than enough kidney function and consequently I could afford to ‘share my spare’.
“I realise that blood and platelets replenish, but knowing my remaining kidney will grow and function at up to 75 per cent capacity of the original combined function made me realise how amazing the human body really is. Deciding to donate a kidney was an extension of my donating, giving, helping philosophy and, as a psychologist, I felt this was a truly unique way of helping someone.
“Furthermore, I made the decision not to have children and thought that if I’m not going to create a life, why not try and save one.
“I am reminded of something I read in my quest to become a kidney donor which was ‘I can’t save the world, but donating a kidney could make a big difference to someone else’s world’.
“It’s certainly been the best and most emotional experience of my life.
“In all honestly I’ve never felt healthier. If it wasn’t for the scars, I would not even know it had happened.
“All I know about my recipient is that my kidney was given to a male.
“If I had another kidney to spare, I would do it all again tomorrow.
“I can now live the rest of my life knowing that someone else is living a fuller life.”