The greatest gift from one brother to the other: life
Many siblings share a closeness - but few brothers can claim to share a pair of kidneys.AASMA DAY talks to Mark and Peter Hewitt who are celebrating a decade since the life saving transplant
Watching his brother Mark suffering as he battled against kidney disease and endured long sessions of dialysis, Peter Hewitt longed to do something to help.
Unbeknown to Mark, Peter went for some tests to see if he was compatible to give his brother one of his kidneys and he was thrilled to find he was the perfect match. The transplant went ahead and was a complete success – and the duo are now celebrating the 10-year milestone since the life transforming surgery.
People can live a perfectly healthy life with just one kidney and not only has Mark’s new kidney completely changed his life and given him renewed energy, Peter is fit and well and the two brothers work on the family’s Batty Hill Farm ,at Cockerham, near Lancaster.
Mark, 44, who is married to Sandra, was diagnosed with the rare condition Alport syndrome when he was 16 – a disease which damages the tiny blood vessels in the kidneys. Mark explains: “Doctors told me that my kidneys would stop working between the ages of 19 and 24 and that I would need to go on dialysis and would need a kidney transplant at some point.
“My kidneys stopped working at 19 and I was on dialysis for 15 years from the age of 19 to 34.”
Mark had haemoodialysis at home in the farmhouse three times a week for eight hour sessions. He had night dialysis so he could still work on the farm during the day.
Mark had been on the waiting list for a kidney for 15 years but a suitable organ had not come up.
Peter, who is six years younger, could see his brother’s health was deteriorating and. without telling him, went to have tests to see if he was a suitable match.
Peter, now 37, who was 27 at the time, says: “It was hard to see my brother suffering for so long while waiting for a kidney. I did not tell him I was going for the tests as I wanted to keep it quiet until I knew if I was a match. Luckily, not only was I a match, I was a perfect match.”
The transplant went ahead at Manchester Royal Infirmary and Mark noticed the difference to his life almost immediately and says Peter’s kidney gave him his life back. Before the transplant, Mark and his wife had sons: George, now 16 and Joseph, now 14. Since the life-changing surgery, the couple have had daughters Gina, eight and Jodie, five.
Mark says: “The kidney transplant has transformed my life completely and I have so much more energy and a better quality of life.
“I have gone from being eight stones when I was on dialysis to being 12 stones after transplant. I have so much more energy. I used to get very tired before. I feel so much better in myself and I can cope with things better and have a good quality of life. Peter giving me a kidney has changed my life completely. I feel as good now as the day I got the new kidney.
“I don’t smoke or drink and I look after myself. Peter has given me the gift of life and I don’t want to abuse that. I am so grateful to Peter. You can’t put a price on what he has done for me.”
The brothers and the rest of their family celebrated the 10-year milestone by taking a trip to Inch Perfect Trials for some trials bike riding followed by a celebratory meal at The Fleece at Abbeystead.
Peter, who is married to Joanne and has sons Harry, seven, Owen, six and Sam, two, says he doesn’t feel any different having one kidney and says seeing the difference it has made to his brother’s life makes it all worthwhile and added: “Seeing the massive difference the kidney has made to Mark’s life is wonderful. I have absolutely no regrets at all and don’t know any different that I have only one kidney. You can’t put a price on changing someone’s life in such a way. My advice to anyone else who has the chance to help a family member in such a way is that if they can do it, it is something they should strongly consider.”
l For more information on organ donation, visit: www.organdonation.nhs.uk