A WOMAN today told how she received a life-saving kidney transplant from her brother, after he travelled from New Zealand specially for the operation soon after his house had been destroyed in the Christchurch earthquake.
Lesley Ross, 49, from Corstorphine, became the 1000th patient to receive a kidney at the ERI’s transplant unit since the kidney transplant service transferred from the Western General Hospital in 1995, and said the care she had received had been second-to-none.
She was today set to meet Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon at the hospital as she announced nearly a million pounds in new funding for the transplant unit.
Ms Ross, a consultant paediatrician at the Sick Kids Hospital, was born with polycystic kidney disease, which causes progressive renal failure over many years.
She said: “It takes a long time to develop, but I was reaching the stage of renal failure so it was anticipated that I was going to need either dialysis or a transplant.
“Because polycystic kidney disease causes your kidneys to get enlarged, I had to have a kidney removed to make room for the transplant, so a plan was put in place with a schedule of operations over the summer. I’ve been very well managed by the transplant team, and so I haven’t needed dialysis.”
Her brother, Duncan Williams, 51, had already been tested and found to be a good match for a potential kidney transplant, should her condition deteriorate.
But disaster struck when, on February 22, 2011, his house was destroyed in the Christchurch earthquake. Just weeks later, Ms Ross’s health began to decline. Despite his circumstances, Mr Williams, himself a doctor, was determined to make good on his pledge.
Ms Ross had a kidney removed in August to make space for the new organ, and in September her brother, with his wife and toddler, travelled more then 11,000 miles to the UK for the transplant.
She said: “My recovery has been very uneventful and excellent. I had my kidney removed in August so I had about six weeks when I was very tired all the time and not very well, and then my brother and his wife and toddler all came over from New Zealand in September and he had to stay in this country for at least six weeks following this operation.
“It was a huge commitment from them. They came and lived with us and he went back in mid to late November.”
She said the transplant had transformed her health, and she will return to work this week after eight months off.
She said: “I used to have to sleep in the afternoons. I would come home from work, get the kids, go to bed for a couple of hours and my husband would come home and get tea and wake me for tea. I have so much more energy now. The other thing is that it’s very hard to think straight when you have renal failure because you have a kind of brain fog and now I don’t have that at all, and I can eat and drink whatever I like now.”
She also heaped praise on the staff who had helped her through the surgery: “I feel I’ve been very fortunate. The surgeon and physicians work very closely together and as a patient that’s very beneficial.
“It’s a very joined-up team and post-operative care was excellent. The transplant coordinators are also a very big part of the team, and have a very important role – surgeons are obviously very busy, so you can’t phone them and ask about dates for flights and so on, but that’s what the transplant co-ordinator’s role is.”
Also joining Ms Sturgeon today as she announces £888,000 additional funding for the hospital’s Scottish Liver Transplant Unit is Fraser Sneddon, 25, who was the 1000th patient to undergo a liver transplant there.
The electrician was born with biliary atresia, which affects liver function.
His health deteriorated when he was about 22. He said: “My jaundice levels went up and I was starting to get a bit self- conscious about how yellow I looked.”
Mr Sneddon hated to go out, and would only leave his house in Kirkcaldy wearing a hat and sunglasses, becoming reluctant to socialise.
He also suffered fluid retention, with more than eight litres of fluid drained from his stomach every week. The fluid build-up left him feeling unwell and often housebound.
So when news came of the liver transplant, he was delighted: “It was a relief for me because of how I’d lived my life for so many years. I was wearing a hat and dark glasses to go out because I was so self-conscious. I was actually in hospital being drained and I said to the nurse ‘I’ve got a funny feeling my liver will be here tonight’.”
Sure enough, he awoke in the morning to find his doctor by the bed, telling him he was indeed about to go into surgery because a liver had become available, although he doesn’t know anything about the donor.
Within days, he was feeling – and looking – much better. He said: “I’d obviously had yellow eyes and my eyes were white after two days, and my skin is normal. It’s such a relief, I’m still getting used to it. I feel so much better, it’s unbelievable.”
Mr Sneddon also praised the work of the transplant teams, saying: “They were absolutely flawless. They looked after me like I was one of their own.”
Sign the register – you could save someone’s life
THE News today urges everyone to consider signing the organ donor register to help meet the urgent need of those awaiting transplants and so that more lives can be saved.
More than 600 people across Scotland are waiting for transplants, and across the UK three people die every day while on the waiting list.
For information on joining the register, see www.organdonationscotland.org, text LIFE to 61611 or call 0300 123 23 23.
The Scottish Liver Transplant Unit, which opened in 1992, will have the capacity to carry out up to 120 liver transplant operations each year as a result of the extra £888,000 of Scottish Government funding being provided – up from the current level of 80. The centre serves the whole of Scotland, but is based at the ERI.