Rich: Three people no longer need dialysis after I donated my kidney as part of a chain

GP Rich, donated his kidney to a stranger in 2022, after reading about ‘effective altruism’ in an economics book.

I live in Nottingham, but originally from Halifax in West Yorkshire. I moved down to Nottingham for medical school in 2007 and I finished my medical school training there and did my junior doctor work in Mansfield and Derby and qualified as a GP in 2017 and I’ve been a GP since working in and around Nottingham.

I first heard about non-directed altruistic kidney donation in 2017 in a book about economics, ‘Who Gets What and Why’ by a Nobel Laureate called Alvin Roth, and he talked about different types of markets and in particular matching markets. This was the first time I came across kidney donation to strangers and it was in an American context and it just sparked my interest.

I found it quite unusual that I was in the medical profession myself and didn’t know about this until I came across it in an economics book and when I looked it up online on the NHS website and found that we have a similar scheme in the UK and indeed we have for for a few years now.

I’d just qualified as a GP and I had a new job and wanted to get settled into the profession but it never disappeared, it was always in the back of my mind. It was something that for some reason I was just compelled towards doing right from the the moment when I discovered it in in the economics book. I was amazed that I hadn’t heard about it before and that I didn’t know anybody who had done anything like that and for some reason it it just struck me like this is something that will feature in my life at some point but at that point it was not the right time because of my new job.

Then two years later when I felt more settled into my clinical role it just became more of an appropriate time for me to go ahead. So I re-made contact with the donation team at my local hospital, Nottingham City hospital and advised them: “I’ve thought about it for two years now and I’ve spoken to lots of friends and loved ones about it and it seems like it’s something that I want to proceed with”. That’s when appointments were made and investigations were booked and it went from there.

After I returned to the UK from Ukraine that’s when I asked them to continue with the build-up and I was put into a matching run and matched in an altruistic donor chain with three recipients. Leading up to the operation I had some more blood tests met with the surgeon again met with the anaesthetist for a pre-op assessment and the op went ahead. Very soon after the operantion, I was able to get out on on walks every day, going uphill gradually increasing the speed and the distance that I walked.

In recent weeks leading up to the operation I was quite keen to proceed and almost excited to just do this thing because I’d been wanting to do it for so long. Now that it has happened it feels quite normal. I certainly don’t feel like a different person; I feel very satisfied that I’ve finally done this thing and I was lucky enough to match into an altruistic donor chain of three people. We’ve we’ve heard from the hospitals in which the recipients had their donations that they’re doing very well and that’s the only reason that I decided to do this in the first place. That obviously brings an immense feeling of satisfaction as those people, whoever they are, no longer need dialysis three times a week and they can hopefully go about their lives in the way that they that they they would do whatever that involves for them. So that brings me a great sense of satisfaction but beyond that I feel just like I used to. It certainly doesn’t feel like a big thing to me.

People have said things like ‘you’re very brave’ or ‘very generous’ but it certainly doesn’t feel like anything unusual to me and I think that’s a part of the message that I wanted to put out there which is I’m a 34 year old guy, I’m pretty normal – I like football I’ve got friends, I’m a normal guy and this is something that a lot of people might realise that maybe that is something that they want to do in their own lives as well.

I’d say that donating a kidney to a stranger is is a big deal but a temporary big deal and it’s something that normal people just like me can do in a section of their lives and it can bring a huge amount of benefit to the people that receive the kidney and all their friends family and loved ones. So you don’t need to be a superhero, you don’t need to be a mega star of any sort – this is potentially available to a large number of people and I recommend that people think whether or not it’s something that they can incorporate into their own lives.