You don’t have to wait until after death to save people’s lives by donating your organs – you can donate some organs while still alive. As part of our campaign “Lancashire: Giving the gift of life”, AASMA DAY talks to Stephen Walton who is today undergoing a transplant with his son-in-law Ryan Crawford donating his kidney to him ...
SON-in-laws are often willing to help out the father of their wife by doing tasks such as DIY or working on their car.
However Ryan Crawford is going beyond the call of duty for his father-in-law today by undergoing surgery to give him one of his kidneys.
Modestly, Ryan, 44, who is married to Steve Walton’s daughter Lisa doesn’t see his actions as heroic and simply says: “I’m not really doing it for Lisa’s sake or the fact that Steve is my father-in-law.
“I’m doing it for Steve as he is such a great guy and I think he deserves it.”
Steve, 61, who lives in Leyland, near Preston, says he is touched beyond belief by Ryan’s selfless gift and that it is hard to put his gratitude into words.
He says: “It is amazing that Ryan is doing this for me.
“I have always got on really well with Ryan and we have done a lot of stuff together such as going scuba diving.
“But I never expected him to do something like this for me.
“I feel like it is a huge sacrifice on his part when we’re not even blood related.
“It is a very selfless thing to do and when Ryan first offered, I was reluctant as I felt guilty.
“But Ryan kept insisting and here we are today about to have the transplant which will hopefully change my life.”
It was by accident through his daughter Lisa that Steve first discovered he had polycystic kidney disease about 10 years ago.
Lisa kept getting bladder infections which kept recurring despite her returning repeatedly to the doctors for antibiotics and painkillers.
Eventually, Lisa ended up at A&E where she was admitted and tests revealed she had polycystic kidney disease - a genetic disorder in which abnormal cysts develop and grow in the kidneys.
Lisa was told that as the condition was genetic, her mother or father would have it. Steve and wife Catherine were tested and it was discovered Steve had the condition.
Steve recalls: “I had no idea there was anything wrong with me until this point as I wasn’t experiencing any symptoms.
“I was quite healthy and well and was active doing things like playing golf and going scuba diving.
“I was able to carry on doing these activities up until about two years ago.”
When Steve was first diagnosed with his condition, his kidney function was about 46 per cent.
However, as time went on, his kidneys declined and last October, he was told his kidney function had dropped to just six per cent.
Since then, Steve has been on haemodialysis at home three times a week.
For the last couple of years, father-of-three Steve has been on the organ donor waiting list for a transplant.
As human beings can function perfectly well with just one kidney, the option of a live kidney donor was discussed, but Steve found he didn’t have too many options.
As Lisa was diagnosed with polycystic kidneys herself, she could not donate and his son Anthony, 36, was also found to have the condition.
His younger son Aden, 27, offered to donate, but specialists said he wasn’t suitable as he may develop polycystic kidneys later in life.
Steve’s wife Catherine put herself forward to be tested, but was not a match and his best friend’s daughter was tested, but was the wrong blood type. One of Steve’s brother’s offered, but he wasn’t suitable either.
Steve says: “You find that some people offer to give you a kidney in conversation, but then they never mention it again.
“But Ryan kept insisting and I kept putting him off.
“However, he was adamant he wanted to do this for me and kept offering.”
Ryan, who is a dad-of-two and lives in Wakefield with Lisa, was tested at Leeds and found to be a great match.
In fact, doctors told the pair that Ryan couldn’t have been a better match if he had been a brother or sister.
Steve, a semi-retired sales director, says: “It was then all systems go and we went forward with all the tests before the transplant.
“Then 12 weeks ago, we went to Manchester Royal Infirmary and doctors told me my kidneys had grown so big because of all the cysts, there was no room for a kidney to be transplanted.”
In a kidney transplant, the patient’s original kidneys usually remain and the new kidney is also transplanted into their body.
However, because of the lack of room in Steve for a new kidney, Steve had to have his right kidney removed 10 weeks ago at Royal Preston Hospital in a six-hour operation.
Doctors discovered that Steve’s kidney had grown so much with all the cysts, it weighed a massive three kilos.
Now he has recovered, the kidney transplant is scheduled to go ahead today at Manchester Royal Infirmary.
Ryan will be operated on first this morning to have one of his kidneys removed and Steve will be operated on around lunchtime to have his new kidney inserted.
Ryan, who works in leadership and learning development, says at first he held back from volunteering his kidney to Steve as he didn’t know when his wife Lisa might need one when her condition deteriorated.
But he then decided he wanted to help Steve now and let the future take care of itself.
Ryan says: “There were a number of occasions when people came forward to offer their kidneys to Steve, but it did not end up working out.
“Steve is such a great guy and I have never heard him moan once about his condition or doing dialysis.
“He never complains and just gets on with things.
“I just felt that I wanted to help Steve as he is a great guy. So I thought I’d live by the motto: ‘Live for today’ and worry about my wife later if she needed a kidney.
“I put myself forward for testing and thought I’d take it from there.
“Doctors came back saying I was a really good match.
“Because I am relatively young for a donor and am big in stature, my kidney will be bigger so I just ticked all the boxes.
“I have not really given a great deal of thought to what I am doing – only why I am doing it.
“I am doing it for Steve as he deserves a break.
“If Steve lives a longer life as the result of this transplant, it will benefit the whole family and Steve’s friends and me and anyone else who enjoys his company.”
Ryan and Lisa took part in a cycle ride from London to Paris and between 37 riders, they raised £105,000 for Kidneys For Life at Manchester’s renal unit.
Ryan has also signed up to do a 400 mile bike ride across the four Italian Lakes and is hopeful he will be fully recovered enough to do this.
Ryan says: “Learning about kidney disease and transplantation has enlightened my life with the people I have met and the challenges I am now giving myself.”
Steve adds jokingly: “Ryan has definitely won extra Brownie points as a son-in-law by giving me his kidney.
“We were very close anyway, but this will make us even closer.
“I just hope everything goes smoothly with the transplant today.”
Lisa Crawford, 38, who will turn 39 tomorrow, says: “My birthday is on hold but if everything goes well today, it will be the best birthday present I could ever have hoped for.
“Today is going to be a very stressful and worrying day with my husband and dad going under the knife on the same day.
“But it is wonderful that this transplant is going ahead and I am really proud of Ryan.
“It is a very selfless thing he is doing which he didn’t have to do,
“But when people tell Ryan he is very brave to be doing this, his reply is: ‘Why wouldn’t you if it means saving someone’s life?’
“Ryan is hopefully going to change my dad’s life for the better.”
• The Evening Post will be following Steve and Ryan’s progress. Watch out for updates on their story.
HOW TO REGISTER AS AN ORGAN DONOR
Giving the gift of life is a campaign aiming to inspire at least another 2,016 people to pledge to donate their organs during 2016.
To register as an organ donor, visit: http://bit.ly/givethegiftoflife
But more importantly, tell those closest to you that you would like to become an organ donor and then record your wishes on the donor register.
That way, when the time comes, your family and friends will know you want to be a donor to help others.
Alternatively, fill in and post back this donation form