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“You can never be sufficiently thankful for something like this.”

Commemorating 60th Anniversary of Living Kidney Transplantation

People saved by living kidney transplantation have given thanks to their donors and the NHS on the 60th anniversary of the first living kidney donation in the UK, 30 October 2020.

1,500 people in Scotland have donated since first surgery in Edinburgh in 1960

The pioneering surgery, which involved twin brothers from Leith, was performed at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh on 30 October 1960 by Sir Michael Woodruff and his team.

Since then, over 1,500 people in Scotland have helped others by donating a kidney.

Patricia Hourd, 63, from Perthshire who received a kidney from mum Sally Mearns 18 years ago, today led the tributes, thanking her mother and the nurses, doctors and surgeons for transforming her life and giving her years of good health. 

Sally, who donated aged 71 and is now 90, put herself forward for testing as a potential donor after Patricia was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease in 2002 and had to start dialysis, after her kidneys started to fail.

In September 2002, Patricia Hourd’s life was transformed thanks to her mother, Sally Mearns, who donated a kidney to her.

Teacher Patricia, 63, was in her early 20s when she discovered she had inherited polycystic kidney disease from her father. It wasn’t until she was in her 40s that her kidneys started showing signs of declining function.

She said:

“My dad had suffered from kidney problems in the 1960s, and when they discovered polycystic kidney disease was genetic both my sister and I were offered tests in our 20s. Despite having no symptoms, I was diagnosed and told that I may experience kidney problems later in life. By the time I reached my 40s, my kidney function had dropped dramatically, and I had to go on dialysis in January 2002.

“Even though she was 71, my mother was already formulating a plan that if she was well enough she would donate a kidney to me. Initially doctors were reluctant to consider a donor of this age, but as a former P.E. teacher, my mother was in incredible shape and determined to go ahead with the transplant.

“Dialysis is so tough, I was forced to start teaching part time. Initially, I didn’t hold out much hope for the transplant going ahead due to my mother’s age, and I felt like there was no point in thinking about it too much. Instead I concentrated on getting through the dialysis.”

Before the transplant could take place, Patricia needed a nephrectomy as one of her diseased kidneys had swollen dramatically to many times its own size and weight. This operation gave back space in the abdomen and the transplant could go ahead.

Talking about the transplant, Patricia said:

“Having the transplant has completely transformed my life, as soon as I woke up from the operation I began to get my strength and energy back, allowing me to return to work full time. My mother was home before I was, and as we lived within one mile of each other, so it was lovely to be so close by. Fortunately my kidney function has remained stable, and we’ve both been in good health since.

“My mother had given birth to me once, and this felt like she was doing that for a second time. We already had a close relationship, but this priceless gift bonded us even more. You can never be sufficiently thankful for something like this.”

A kidney from a living donor generally offers the best outcomes for patients living with kidney failure who need a transplant, and those on the waiting list are encouraged to consider living donation as an option for this reason.

A healthy person can live a completely normal life with one working kidney, and people can donate to a loved one in need or can donate altruistically to a stranger on the waiting list who is a match.

Minister for Public Health Joe FitzPatrick said:

“Today is a significant milestone in the history of transplantation.  Living kidney donation has come a long way from that first surgery in October 1960, with 100 such operations currently performed in Scotland each year with a very high success rate.

“The programme will remain an important part of increasing donation and transplantation rates when opt out legislation is introduced next March. 

“The generosity of donors, coupled with the care and dedication of those in the NHS who facilitate each stage of the process, has resulted in many lives being saved and transformed and I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to everyone involved.”

Mr Gabriel Oniscu, consultant transplant surgeon at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, and Director of the Edinburgh Transplant Centre said:

“There have been many significant advancements in the 60 years since that first pioneering surgery which have completely changed the outcomes for patients living with kidney failure.  Keyhole surgery for the donor operation and the kidney sharing schemes have certainly revolutionised living donation. 

“The difference living donation makes to someone living with end stage kidney failure cannot be underestimated.  The most rewarding part of my role is without a doubt seeing a donor and recipient recovering following surgery.  Being able to facilitate that transformation is an immense privilege.”

To find out more about living donation, visit livingdonationscotland.org

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