It’s been a while since I last penned an article for Gay Agenda and it’s one of the ironies of life that caused the hiatus to my regular postings that I’d like to share with you.
During the early part of the summer last year I was, like most people in the UK, rather excited about the prospect of the forthcoming Olympic Games taking place on home soil. The Olympic Torch was completing a relay the length and breadth of the country, ensuring the majority of the population could feel part of the massive celebration that is so much more than just a sporting event of a global scale. During a news report on the progress of the torch the local TV news also featured a gentleman of advancing years by the name of Nicholas Crace welcoming back two younger chaps that had just completed eleven marathons in as many days. A super human achievement, I’m sure you’ll agree, however this amazing athletic feat was made all the more impressive when it was revealed that one of the runners, Stuart Vince, had only recently donated a kidney to a friend and Nicholas had just become the oldest living organ donor in the UK at the young age of 83!
I was amazed by both of their very different stories, whilst Stuart donated his kidney to help a young friend, Nicholas donated his to a complete stranger, non-directed or altruistic donation as it has become known here in the UK. That news report stayed with me, over and over again it played in my head and set my mind whirling into overtime. I did a little research and was astonished at what I found out, for example in the UK at the moment there are 10,000 people in need of a new organ, there are over 7600 people currently on the waiting list in the UK and even more shockingly, three of those people will die every day because there simply isn’t enough organs to go around. In the United States of America that figure is an even more tragic 18 people who will die each day because of a lack of donated organs. According to recent research approximately 96% of us would take a donated organ if we needed one, yet less than a third of us have signed the organ donation registers to give ours away when we die.
Further research informed me that one can live on one kidney perfectly well, with little or no effect on day to day living, furthermore, most UK living kidney donors tend to live longer than non-donors! Of course having a kidney removed for transplantation is a serious major surgery and consequentially there are risks, like any surgery is not without it’s risks, however the chances of dying from as a result of kidney donation are estimated to be 1 in 3000. Not bad when you consider your chances of dying in a automobile accident are 1 in 2000. After a lot of soul searching, deep thinking and a few more hours of research I decided I’d offer one of my fist sized organs for donation and signed on to become living kidney donor.
The process is quite long and involved many meetings with the transplant co-ordinator, several blood and urine test, chest x-rays, scans, sonograms, ecgs, counselling and yet more blood tests. It can be quite daunting at first, especially if you’re like me and have what I consider to be a rather rational fear of hospitals. I mean they’re full of sick people and unless you work in one they are not the sort of places you go to voluntarily just for fun! However even with that in mind, I still had no doubts that I was doing the right thing and everything would all be worth it in the end.
One of my last tests was a nuclear medicine Glomerular Filtration Rate Cr51 EDTA test, which is a rather long four hour examination in which some radioactive isotopes are injected directly into the blood stream and then at regular intervals blood is taken to test how much of the radioactive stuff the kidneys have cleared. I got my results Christmas last year and my dreams of becoming a living kidney donor came to a crashing halt. My kidneys are not working as they should, in short my results actually revealed that I cant be living kidney donor because I’m on the borderline between stage two and stage three of chronic kidney disease!
Isn’t that a kick in the private parts, there I am, striving to become a living organ donor, all ready to give away either my left or right kidney when all the time the only thing wrong with me is my blooming kidneys! I had no clue anything and I have to confess it took me a long time to completely recover my equilibrium, still I suppose it’s just one of those slightly cruel ironies of my life, you know, I voluntary go to hospital, undergo a series of tests I don’t really need, in order to donate something only to find unbeknownst to me that what I want to donate is already way passed its prime, a bit like an odd left sneaker left behind in the locker room after game. It’s old, it’s a little worn, still functional yet no use to anyone else other than its original owner!
Still, that’s just the way it is, I’ll not change it by complaining and besides there are so many in a worse off than me, and even though I can’t do it, I’m still passionate about organ donation, either living or otherwise and I urge you to seriously consider giving someone the greatest gift you can ever possibly give someone and that is the gift of life!
For more information about my journey read my account of the donation process please see my Donor Diary. www.donordiary.blogspot.co.uk
The US National Kidney Foundation website is a wonderful resource for everything concerned with the kidneys – www.kidney.org
To sign the organ donor register in the UK please visit here. www.organdonation.nhs.uk