During my time on dialysis a few friends had kindly said in passing conversation that they’d give me a kidney. My standard reaction had always been to say almost awkwardly ‘thank you, that’s really kind of you’ and then quickly change the subject. I mean how is one supposed to react when a friend casually mentions that they could give you the most amazing gift in the world, taking the indefinite sentence of dialysis away, constant tiredness and the rest of the lovely little side effects kidney failure comes with. Somehow I don’t think if I suddenly produced a large rope net, threw it over them (think Tom and Jerry cartoons) and bundled them in to an awaiting ambulance to get tested straight away it would go down very well…so I usually say, after thanking them, that the best thing for them to do is to see their GP to find out what blood type they are then take it from there.
I find that this answer puts as little pressure as possible on people and also allows them to think seriously about whether they would want to actually go ahead with donating a kidney. It’s not exactly a decision to be taken lightly and the last thing I’d want people to feel is pressure, and I usually assure people that the nature of my condition means I’m not likely to drop down dead in the next few hours so they don’t need to leg it to the GP this minute.
So, when my friend Oliver said he would like to give me a kidney, during a text conversation, I thanked him and told him he was being very kind. The next day I received a message from him asking what the next step would be in seeing if he would be compatible. I recommended he spoke to his GP but little did I know that over the next couple of days he had not only contacted his GP, but he’d spoken to the transplant co-ordinator at his local hospital about being a donor and even been on lots of forums finding out more about what is involved in the whole process.
I was taken aback to say the least and so touched that he had actually gone to the effort of doing this. After a couple of phone calls between me, my transplant co-ordinator Alex, and Oliver, it was arranged that he would send a sample of his blood down from Leeds which would be used for a crossmatch.
Crosmatching is basically a test that involves a sample of my blood and a sample of Oli’s blood going head to head in a little petri dish. My blood cells and his blood cells then check each other out and see if they want to be friends. If one of our bloods kicks off, a positive reaction is found. This means that our bloods didn’t like each other and rejection took place – so therefore no transplant would be able to happen. If a negative reaction happens the bloods sit happily together, and no reaction whatsoever takes place. This is the best scenario for a transplant.
Oli had already found out he was the blood type O Positive, which already had resulted in a little happy dance in my office car park as he told me on the phone - This is my blood type and every other person that had tried to be my donor (my Mum, Dad and older brother among them) had always been blood group A. It was like I was cursed by these damn blood group A people, even my flatmate turned out to A. So when Oli rang me rather excitedly a few days after he sent his blood down and informed me that the crossmatch was completely negative I was speechless, more happy dances were to be had.
Despite being pleased with Oli’s news, I did not want to get my hopes up as there have been a fair few kidney related disappointments over the past year so I tried not to think about what the outcome could be. I was also completely prepared that Oli may change his mind and I assured him that this would be ok if he did. Alex then arranged for Oli to come down to my hospital in London a few days ago for two days of intense testing (cue Oli the pin cushion) and a lot of chatting about what exactly is involved….