I first came across the concept of altruistic kidney donation – or non-directed kidney donation – while reading a book on ethics in my last year at university. As soon as I saw the words on the page, I knew that this was something I was going to do. I read hurriedly on, scared I’d come across some factor that
might prevent me from donating but the more I learned about donating to a stranger, the more certain I became that it was right for me.
I decided to think about it for a year, which morphed into three years due to the Covid pandemic. I researched the topic extensively, including accounts of people suffering from kidney failure. It’s a brutal situation for them, so I felt determined to go ahead.
After a year of medical tests, I was approved to donate and a match came up instantly. By then, I had informed my close family: they were all immediately supportive apart from my mother who was terrified. It took some patience to bring her to my point of view. I took six weeks off work, told my extended family and went ahead.
Donating was remarkably easy: I was put to sleep and when I woke up it was done! I spent four days in hospital and then about a month living like an old man and taking constant naps. By the time I returned to work it would often feel like it was all a dream, then I’d reach for the scars on my stomach and remember it was real.
I donated as part of the UK Living Sharing Scheme and I discovered that as part of my donation a total of five people received kidney transplants. I learned that one was a young child who had been on dialysis: I had never imagined I could help someone like that but I’m glad I did.
Day to day, life has not changed at all with one kidney. In the long-term, it shouldn’t have any major impact on my health. I feel I paid an absurdly small price given how much I was able to help others.
This seems to be not an uncommon experience: I met another altruistic donor who gave at 65 who said it has changed very little to his life in the last decade. The worst part about donating a kidney is you can only do it once. I feel there is a lack of awareness about the possibility of donation, how great the benefits are and how surprisingly easy it is.
I feel deeply grateful to all the medical professionals who enabled me to donate as well as to my fellow donors in my chain. At this point in my life, donating is the best thing I’ve ever done.