Harry Turner, aged 70, underwent kidney transplant surgery 50 years ago, in 1969. The average lifespan of a kidney transplant from a living relative is 10-16 years, with an average of six years longer if from a live donor, so 50 years is a remarkable time.
Harry, who attends Royal Preston Hospital for regular check-ups, says: “I was around 20 when I had my transplant. My two kidneys had packed up and were diseased. My weight had gone up to almost 20 stone because I was full of fluid.“My brother, Victor, kindly gave me his kidney and it has worked ever since.“Sadly, he passed away when he was just 39 from a heart attack, which was a real shock. I am so grateful for what he did for me. “As soon as I had the operation, I felt so much better. I was up and walking about in the hospital ward before my brother was. “My brother was three years older and was really pleased he was able to do that for me.“Having the transplant has enabled me to live a full life. I managed to hold down a full-time job in construction until I was 58. It was life changing for me.”
Harry, of Millom, had the transplant at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne, after being referred by West Cumberland Hospital, in Whitehaven.As it was too far for the grandfather-of-three to travel to Newcastle, he registered to be a patient at Royal Preston Hospital.
He adds: “The staff at Preston Hospital have looked after me so well over the last 12 to 15 years. “I go every two months to get my blood taken and to see how my kidney is doing.“I’m so lucky to have reached 50 years with my transplant, you can only hope that it would last so long. “You don’t see many lasting so long. “I would truly urge people to join the organ donation register.”
Staff at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals organised a special event to celebrate this milestone at the Fulwood-based hospital. At the event, the team also presented Harry with a plaque created by fellow transplant patient Robin Sharples and his friend Jim Cooper.
Mark Brady, clinical director for renal medicine at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, says: “We think this might be the longest time that a kidney transplant from a living donor has ever lasted. “We cannot find a record of an older transplanted kidney in the UK or worldwide.”
Another transplant patient who is celebrating longevity is Jean Bleeker, from Marton, Blackpool, who has had her new kidney for 42 years.
The 66-year-old says: “I had trouble with my health when I was about five or six and spent time at Pendlebury Hospital in Manchester.“After that, I was okay until I was 19. Two years before that I was in a very bad car accident and I was never right since then. “It progressed as my kidneys packed in over time and I had blood in my urine. I felt sick and had turned yellow.“Blood was pouring out of my mouth but I never went to the doctor.
“But after being sick every morning and feeling very unwell, I went to the hospital and was put on the transplant list. “I was on dialysis for a few years. I was not living – just surviving.“I was 24 when I had my transplant. I don’t know who my donor was, I was just told it was a 10-year-old boy who had been in a car crash in Belfast.“I am very grateful for this as I would not have been able to do the things I have been able to do.“I feel very lucky but it is frightening to think it has lasted 42 years. I have looked after myself.”
Dr Aimun Ahmed, renal consultant, says: “Harry and Jean are fantastic examples showcasing the importance of organ donation and the effect that it has on lives. “Kidney transplants are precious gifts that save lives. “We currently have 727 transplant patients at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals and are above average in the UK for the amount of patients that undergo transplants each year.”
Register to be an organ donor at www.organdonation.nhs.uk and let friends and family know you want to help others after your death.