"Alan, my husband, wanted to give me a kidney. He sadly wasn’t a match, and that was when the kidney team first suggested the paired/pooled scheme."
"I was diagnosed with kidney disease aged four and I had my first transplant aged ten at the Royal Free. That transplant lasted just under 35 years. I had my little girl 25 years after that transplant. I was told I would never have children, so I’ve been very lucky.
"Through the pregnancy my kidney had a lot of wear and tear – it did a lot of work – and eventually started to fail. I didn’t want to go back on dialysis, so we started looking into transplantation again. Alan, my husband, wanted to give me a kidney. He sadly wasn’t a match, and that was when my kidney team first suggested the paired/pooled scheme. This was in 2011 and Alan and I had never heard of it before.
"Going through the paired/pooled scheme felt very different to the first transplant. Alan and I saw lots of professionals at the hospital, both together and separately. They wanted to make sure I wasn’t pressuring Alan, and that he was happy to go ahead with donating, and vice versa, that I was happy with Alan going ahead. There were transplant specialists, nurses, an independent person who had nothing to do with transplants to make sure there was no pressure. The staff were very good and very thorough; they explained everything to us and were really reassuring.
"Alan and I spoke at length about the scheme. It was new to us, and he wasn’t giving me a kidney directly, rather he was getting me a kidney by giving his to a stranger. I was scared for us.
"When I had my first transplant, I was a child; you look at things differently. I was thinking about eating ice cream and bacon sandwiches! But when it was time for the second transplant I had more health issues, I had a ten-year-old daughter at home, and I had Alan. It felt like there was a lot more at stake. I just wanted it to work."
"The scheme needs to be publicised more, so more people are aware and think about going into it. Going through the scheme means that two or three people are getting a kidney, which is a gift of life."
"The build-up took about nine months, and it happened in January 2011. Our pool was a three way pool – I was surprised that you could do it with three people. It was my husband, myself, two more recipients, and two more donors.
"We were all worked up together, it all had to be spot on. When Alan went down for surgery, the other two donors had to be ready. When I received, the other recipients had to be ready. It was so efficient, like clockwork.
"On the morning of the operation, Alan went down first and I was scared stiff. I had been through the experience of a transplant before, but he hadn’t. I then went down at 2pm and came back at 11pm because the kidney I received the operation was more complicated than expected.
"Alan was in pain but was able to see me. He was put on medication for the pain and his blood pressure went up – he is still on the blood pressure medication now. After about six weeks he was more or less back to himself. He went back to work part time for eight weeks, and four weeks after that he was fine.
"We were told that it was a 33 year old man from Belfast who donated his kidney to me. His mum needed a kidney, so she was one of other recipients. We don’t know much about the person who received Alan’s kidney but each time we ask, we are told they’re doing well.
"Alan has a check up at the Royal Free once per year and he is doing brilliantly (though he gets told off for putting weight on over Christmas!). As well as the hospital, my GP has been fantastic. My kidney is doing great.
"Paired/pooled is the way forward – we need more people to have transplants. It is getting harder for people with kidney disease, and I’ve been trying to find ways to get information out about transplantation because the scheme needs to be publicised more, so more people are aware and think about going into it. Going through the scheme means that two or three people are getting a kidney, which is a gift of life. Plus, you get a better chance at a successful transplant through the scheme – my husband and weren’t a good match, but I got a kidney from the pool that was better for me. I’ve had three miracles in my life, two transplants and one daughter."