Local charity worker donates kidney to her best friend
With Christmas a distant memory, you could be forgiven for thinking the season for giving has been long forgotten for another year. But not so in the North West as a charity Merseyside fundraiser is about to give the most precious gift of all to her friend – her kidney!
Andy Clewes, 46, is a radio DJ with Macclesfield station Silk 106.9, he’s suffered with chronic kidney disease since birth but it’s only been in the last few years that the illness has started to have a devastating impact on Andy’s life.
Andy and Helen met in 2006 when Andy’s radio station ran ‘Bring A £ To Work Day’, a charity fundraising event. Helen, who is a fundraiser for local children’s charity, the Children’s Adventure Farm Trust, took part on behalf of the charity and they have remained close friends ever since.
Helen Crowther, 46, was Best (wo)Man at Andy’s wedding to Christine in October 2016 and the friends, who were born exactly a week apart, describe themselves as “two peas in a pod”.
It became apparent in 2015 that Andy’s kidney disease had progressed to the stage where a transplant would be needed and Helen didn’t hesitate to step forward. The first step was a simple blood test to ascertain whether they were a match, a nerve-wracking wait which was thankfully rewarded with a very positive yes. Andy and Helen, despite not being related, were a close match and a long year of tests began.
Helen, a Runcorn resident originally from Stockbridge Village, said: “It’s been a long process determining whether my kidney was healthy enough to give to Andy, but it’s all finally going ahead! I can’t deny that the prospect of having such a big operation scares me, but all I can think about is getting Andy well.
“For me, it’s just a couple of months out of my life when I’ll feel a bit tired and sore, but for Andy it will be a whole new life. It’ll be so lovely to see him healthy and happy, without the worry of his worsening condition getting him down.”
The pair are now hoping to use their experience to encourage others to sign up to the Organ Donor Register.
Andy, 46, from Crewe, said: “I’ve lived with chronic kidney disease for a long time now, but I feel lucky and grateful to be able to have this transplant. It means I can get my life back and I’m very much looking forward to a future when I will be well.
“I’d like to appeal to everyone to sign up to the Organ Donor Register, or even to consider being a living donor, as you really will be changing lives. I’ve been lucky to have a friend who is willing and able to help, but others aren’t so fortunate and rely on the kindness of strangers.”
Andy and Helen will have their operations at separate hospitals, in separate cities – a common occurrence for transplant teams throughout the UK as organs are donated from all four corners of the country.
Helen’s operation will take place at the Royal Liverpool Hospital on the morning of the 24 January when her kidney will be removed then carefully transported to the Manchester Royal Infirmary where Andy will receive the kidney later that same day.
The Royal Liverpool University Hospital is a regional centre for kidney transplantation, treating patients from Merseyside, Cheshire and North Wales.
Mr Sanjay Mehra, consultant transplant surgeon at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, added:
“Across the UK one in ten people in need of a transplant die waiting for a donor. It’s vital that we get more people signed up to the Organ Donation Register, as we know that one donor could potentially change the lives of up to eight people. You can join the organ donation register online here or by calling 0300 123 2323.”
About organ donation
There are three different ways to donate. These are:
Living donation - Whilst you are still alive you can choose to donate a kidney, a small section of your liver, discarded bone from a hip or knee replacement and also your amniotic membrane (placenta).
Brain stem death - This is where a person no longer has activity in their brain stem due to a severe brain injury. They have permanently lost the potential for consciousness and the capacity to breathe. This may happen even when a ventilator is keeping the person's heart beating and oxygen is circulated through their blood.
Circulatory death - Is the irreversible loss of function of the heart and lungs after a cardiac arrest from which the patient cannot or should not be resuscitated. It can also be the planned withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment from a patient within the Intensive Care Unit or the Emergency Department.