In 2007, Kay Mason of Welwyn Garden City, then in her early sixties, became the first person in the UK to donate a healthy kidney to a complete stranger. Since then more than 250 people have donated in this way, following in her altruistic footsteps.
First approaching the Department of Health in 2002 to offer a kidney for an unrelated recipient, Kay recalls she “was concerned about the number of people stuck on dialysis hoping for a kidney transplant and those dying before one became available”. She adds “I knew that people could function perfectly well with only one kidney and I felt sure that I could too”.
Waiting five years for the law to change thus making the possibility of her approach a reality, Kay submitted comments on government reports which she hopes contributed to the change of law in 2006 enabling her to donate in 2007. Over this time Kay was told she wasn’t the first to make the request and that granting it would, unfortunately, not be justified in the absence of a close personal relationship with a recipient. Looking back she wonders if she would have been received differently had “the civil servants used the interpretation of neighbour that Jesus gave us”. Speaking of her experience, Kay explains:
“I had been a blood donor which is a great way to serve, and in the light of knowing that many people were dying of kidney failure while waiting for a transplant (there are currently around 6000 people in the UK in need of a kidney transplant, of which around 300 may die this year), I felt able to offer a kidney which I knew I could live without. Seven years on my recipient remains healthy, as do I!
The wonderful thing about kidney donation is that thanks to modern medical science you can exercise love in action and literally save a neighbour's life without having to lay down your own and I applaud fleshandblood for raising awareness."
Anyone wishing to find out more about altruistic kidney donation in the UK can visit giveakidney.org which offers information about donation, and can also arrange for potential donors to be put in touch with existing donors if required.