Edinburgh kidney transplant: How West Lothian father gave his son the gift of life by agreeing to donate kidney

Now Livingston pair are back at work and going on golfing holidays together
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A loving dad has given his son an amazing second chance by donating his kidney to save him from an incurable disease.

James MacDonald, 57, gave his son the gift of life after Craig, 28, developed chronic kidney failure. The disease had reduced Craig’s kidney function by a staggering 92 per cent. His mum, dad, older sister and several members of his extended family stepped forward as potential donors to save him from a future on dialysis.

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James emerged as the most compatible match and the pair, from Livingston, West Lothian, underwent the lifesaving transplant operation at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh in February last year. Now in time to celebrate World Kidney Day, Craig has made a full recovery, returned to work with his dad and the golfing buddies are closer than ever before.

Craig MacDonald (left) received the gift of life from his dad James. They are pictured recovering after the transplant operation.Craig MacDonald (left) received the gift of life from his dad James. They are pictured recovering after the transplant operation.
Craig MacDonald (left) received the gift of life from his dad James. They are pictured recovering after the transplant operation.

James, a manufacturer at a packaging company, said: "Craig and I are really close. We have worked together for many years, and I just wanted to give Craig his life back. I didn’t think twice about it and I think any father would want to do that for their child.”

Craig said: “I’m so thankful to my family, to my dad and to the transplant team for saving my life. The transplant experience has brought me and my dad even closer together.”

Craig's journey with kidney issues began in childhood, but it wasn't until a family holiday in 2021 that his symptoms became clearer. His mum noticed his ankles were swollen and insisted he see a doctor.

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After visiting his GP, Craig was swiftly admitted to St John’s Hospital in Livingston with extremely high blood pressure as he was at risk of having a stroke. Craig went on to be diagnosed with IgA nephropathy - where a build-up of protein damages the kidney's filtering function - in November 2021 and was put on dialysis in October 2022.

He said: “It was really scary being admitted to hospital so quickly and then being told that my kidney function was declining rapidly. I didn’t feel unwell which made it even more disconcerting. I felt way too young for this to happen and there was so much more I wanted to achieve in my life.”

James was identified as the optimal donor and in 2023, Craig and his dad underwent the lifesaving kidney transplant. Craig's mother, Carol, said: "I felt so helpless having my husband and my son in surgery. I was pacing up and down the hospital corridors just waiting to hear whether they were both okay."

The operation was a success and within days, the transplant began making a visible difference to Craig. James said: “He looked significantly healthier after the surgery - his face just lit up. Before the operation, his kidneys were functioning at 8% and after one day post-surgery, his kidneys were up at 21 per cent, it was amazing. Seeing him healthy and happy was the greatest reward any father could ask for."

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Since the operation, Craig has returned to work with his dad at the packaging company the pair go golfing regularly. Craig said: “I’m now able to do what I want and I can finally lead a normal life. I’m just back from a golfing holiday with my dad and the experience has ignited an excitement within me for exploring the world more. I’ve been given a second chance and I want to enjoy every minute.”

Nina Kunkel-Howden, Live Donor Transplant Coordinator, NHS Lothian, said: “Craig's journey is a powerful testament to the transformative impact of living kidney donation. Living donors really do change lives. We wish him and his family the very best.”

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