AN 85-year-old woman under the care of Royal Preston Hospital has made medical history by becoming the oldest person in the UK to donate a kidney while still alive.
The pensioner, now 86, who wants to remain anonymous, made the selfless act and gave one of her kidneys to a complete stranger after saying: “Why do I need two kidneys to sit at home knitting and watching television?”
Through her generous act, the woman has become the oldest altruistic kidney donor and she will never meet the recipient of her organ. But she has told medical experts at Royal Preston Hospital that it is enough to know that she has helped give someone else the gift of life.
The woman decided to offer one of her kidneys for donation after reading about the desperate need for people to donate their organs to help those on the NHS waiting list.
Although she did not know anyone personally who needed a kidney transplant nor anyone else who had donated, she thought: “I can do that” and approached specialists at Royal Preston Hospital offering to donate her “spare kidney” to a total stranger.
After thorough tests and investigations, the woman was proclaimed fit and healthy enough to undergo the surgery and the operation was performed successfully at Manchester Royal Infirmary.
The woman has recovered well from the procedure and has absolutely no regrets and is hoping that by showing she has done it at her age, she will encourage other people to think about becoming an altruistic donor.
She told transplant experts at Royal Preston Hospital: “I had two kidneys, but I knew I could survive perfectly well with just one.
“So I thought why not give one away to someone who needs one while I am alive rather than waiting until after death to donate my organs.”
After tests revealed the woman was fit to go ahead with the procedure and approval had been given by the Human Tissue Authority, her kidney was offered to the “donor pool” in the same way as a kidney belonging to a deceased person.
Studies have shown a living donor kidney usually performs better, works quicker and lasts longer than one from a deceased donor.
Once a match was found for the woman’s kidney, a date for surgery was set between the two centres and the woman’s kidney has now given a stranger a better quality of life.
Fiona Biggins, transplant recipient co-ordinator at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “There is no age limit when it comes to organ donations, although each potential donor has to be assessed on an individual basis.
“We are always extremely grateful to all those who consider making this generous offer.
“This lady has been incredibly kind by donating her kidney at the age of 85 to a complete stranger and she is a real inspiration.
“She is a very traditional and matter-of-fact woman and we have thoroughly enjoyed caring for her.
“The fact that she wanted to remain anonymous after making the donation shows how selfless she is and how she made the donation for purely altruistic reasons.
“We feel very proud to have met her and helped her through this donation.”
There are around 6,000 people waiting for a kidney transplant in the UK and one person dies almost every day while waiting for an organ.
Since April last year, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals has dealt with 43 deceased donor transplants, 27 live donations with another four planned and seven altruistic donations from other centres.
Fiona Biggins added: “We have a dedicated team here who work tirelessly with donors and people who need organs and we are always looking to get more people on the organ donor register.
“We would like to say a massive thank you to everybody who has helped to make a difference.”
The news of the woman’s donation comes as figures reveal that more than 250 people in the UK have given one of their healthy kidneys to a stranger on the NHS kidney transplant waiting list.
Chris Burns-Cox, chairman of the charity Give a Kidney, said: “Hearty congratulations to this donor and the recipient who have given and received a wonderful gift.
“Humans only need one healthy kidney to lead a perfectly normal life and with around 6,000 people on the waiting list for a kidney transplant, it is a fantastic way to help people in dire need of a new kidney.
“Around 300 people in need of a kidney die in the UK each year.
“Thanks to this remarkable donor and the increasing number of others like her, we hope to see fewer people in that situation.
“When considering a person’s health status it is not the age that matters but the number of expected years to come.
“An 85-year-old may very well be fitter and healthier than a 65-year-old.
“Each potential donor receives a very thorough health check to assess their suitability as a donor.
“The number of altruistic donors in the UK is increasing steadily year-on-year as more people become aware that this is something they can do with minimal risk.”
If you would like to know more about organ donation or are considering becoming an altruistic donor, call Fiona Biggins at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals on 01772 524353 or visit: www.giveakidney.org