'˜My son has given me the gift of life, that is true Christmas spirit'

A Wigan vicar received 'the best Christmas present ever' when her sick husband was given a kidney by their brave son.
Tony Coffey pictured with wife Helen at their rectoryTony Coffey pictured with wife Helen at their rectory
Tony Coffey pictured with wife Helen at their rectory

Rev Helen Coffey’s husband Anthony was facing a five-year wait on the NHS transplant waiting list, when his condition deteriorated earlier this year.

That was until son Daniel, 33, volunteered to be tested for transplant compatibility.

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The match was so good that doctors claimed it could be the only kidney Anthony would ever need, and the father and son underwent successful surgery on November 25.

Helen, vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Ashton-in-Makerfield, said she was “unbelievably proud” of Daniel for his bravery.

“We’re a close family anyway, but this makes us even closer,” she said. “He’s given us a wonderful gift.

“It’s the best Christmas present ever - one that money can’t buy.”

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Anthony, 58, has suffered from a condition called nephritis - an inflammation of the kidney - since an accident as a child, and the dental technician said it impaired his quality of life growing up.

“When I was seven, I fell off a slide in a park and got an infection,” he said.

“I was in and out of Pendlebury Children’s Hospital (now Royal Manchester Children’s Hopsital).

“I wasn’t allowed to do contact sports like rugby or football.”

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Anthony was told he was stable at 16, but that his kidneys would deteriorate by the time he would reach his 40s. And sure enough, they did.

His kidney function had been slowly decreasing over the past 15 years, and a transplant almost went ahead two years ago until his condition improved.

Unfortunately, Anthony found himself in the same bleak position this year.

For Daniel, the prospect of seeing his father on dialysis inspired him to courageously step up and offer one his own kidneys.

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“It was extremely emotional when he offered to donate,” Anthony said.

Daniel, an engineer who now lives in Leamington Spa, said: “I had understood as a child that my dad had issues which had impacted his own childhood and would hit him hard in later life.

“He hadn’t been able to enjoy an active lifestyle for many years and had the energy levels of someone 20 years his senior.

“Somehow he managed to push on into his late 50s, even with several other health setbacks.

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“It’s not fair that someone who has worked so hard for so many years, to provide for his family, should slow down so soon.

“I hope that this brilliant procedure and expert care given to him - along with my kidney - will allow him to not just continue his life, but to reinvigorate it, so that a much-loved man who has sacrificed so much can have the strength and energy to get the most out of many more enjoyable years to come.”

Daniel’s recovery from the transplant operation is apparently only suffering setbacks due to his desire to remain active, according to dad.

“He’s a very athletic, fit young man,” Anthony said.

“For him to be told to rest has been really hard. He’s been pushing himself so he’s not recovering as fast.”

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Helen and Anthony’s other two children also put themselves forward for the organ donation in the event that Daniel wasn’t compatible.

Youngest son Jonathan, 24, and 30-year-old daughter Hannah Smith, were both willing to help their dad avoid an agonising wait for a donor.

But Anthony admitted he wouldn’t accept an offer from the latter for one important reason - motherhood.

“Hannah wanted to donate, but we told her no,” he added.

“She wants children, and we told her that if she wants to raise a child, she’s going to need both kidneys.”

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Anthony was lucky enough to find a donor so soon, but others aren’t so fortunate.

Up to three people die each day whilst waiting for a transplant and Anthony urged as many people as possible to register as organ donors, in a bid to lower that number.

Anthony said: “Your organs are no good being shut in a box forever, so you might as well donate them.”

He added: “I feel like I’ve got a lot more energy now.

People are saying how healthy I look!”

Helen concluded: “It’s a gift from God and what perfect timing! Christmas is about sharing, and sharing love.”