John Burns, an adult English teacher from Bromley, donated his kidney in 2019 at Guy’s Hospital in London.
“I am originally from the North East but came south, initially to university in Brighton, followed by drama school. I’m a teacher, and although this comes first and I have a role as a teaching union branch secretary, I still gets a kick out of work as a film extra – I love the glamour.
“I think there is possibly an altruistic gene which I’ve inherited from my mother, a regular blood donor and inveterate helper of family and friends. In the autumn of 2017 when I read an article in a national paper written by a woman who had given a kidney to someone she didn’t know, I suddenly knew where my own altruistic urges should be directed. I spent the earlier part of my life trying to succeed in various fields – including acting – and eventually coming to terms with the difficult questions about what makes one’s life worthwhile. I moved from an inward-looking concern with ambition to be realised, to an outward view as to what might help other people.”
Having been inspired by the newspaper piece John mulled it over. His son was awaiting his A levels results and John needed time to discuss with his partner and family his growing conviction that donation was something he had a moral imperative to do. Perhaps his degree in psychology gave him insight into his altruistic motivation?
“At a Give A Kidney event, I talked to a kidney recipient who had been on dialysis every night for six long years. The organ he received from an unknown donor gave him back 85% of his life and meant he could see his three sons grow up. Cue immediate emotional response. If I had questioned my motivation to donate before, this story certainly nailed my commitment.
“My donation was a breeze! The confidence I felt in the team at Guy’s, from my coordinator to the surgeon, meant that fear was never part of the equation. The operation went smoothly, and I was out of hospital in four days and back to full strength in a few weeks. The only after effect was a boost to my self-esteem!
“As a lover of the English language and sometime poet, I feel that some lines from Tennyson’s Ulysses sum up the wish to do something worthwhile in our otherwise unremarkable lives:
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note may yet be done.”
And John’s verdict: ‘I would not feel as comfortable in my own skin as I do now if I had not donated my kidney’.