A SELFLESS woman from Tavistock has donated a kidney to a complete stranger.
Caroline Furze, 48, became a living donor after she underwent surgery at Derriford Hospital on June 14 this year.
The donation to an unknown recipient is termed as a non-directed altruistic donation, which up until 2007 was illegal.
The first non-directed altruistic living kidney donation in the UK was approved that year. Since then, slightly more than 500 such donations have taken place nationally and altruistic donors now account for about 10% of all living kidney donations.
Caroline who suffers from MS (multiple sclerosis) said she was happy to help someone with kidney disease by donating her kidney as it was something she has always wanted to do but never knew she could due to her disability.
‘I have known that we have two kidneys and we only need one to survive and I have always known about transplants but I always assumed the MS would bar me,’ said Caroline.
‘Non-directed altruistic donations have only been possible since 2007 in the UK and in 2013 I found out that I had the potential to donate but then I never expected that I would get through all the tests that you have to go through.
‘My MS has been stable for a while but it is likely to deteriorate in the future, and no-one’s health is guaranteed. I realised that if I was serious about wanting to donate I needed to get on with it and pick up the phone to start the process
‘I want to help and I want to help where I can and am able, I can’t help the people of Syria, I can’t help at Grenfell Tower, but I could donate my kidney and I felt it would be a waste to have healthy organs within a body that doesn’t work very well.
‘Donating this kidney not only gives one person a life it gives a whole family their life back.
‘I can’t cure cancer but I could help treat someone with kidney disease.
‘I want to thank all the staff at Derriford who took such good care of me and my GP who has been very supportive throughout.’
Keith Rigg, a transplant surgeon at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, sits on the panels that consider applications from people who want to give a kidney to a stranger. He said that there are more men than women donors and that they tend to be middle aged or older — the average age of those giving an altruistic donation is 52, but there is a wide range of people, from some in their 20s to some in their 80s.
‘They sometimes feel they’ve had to jump through a lot of hoops in order to be able to do this. It’s something they have thought through very carefully and they’ve discussed with their families. They’re very giving people.’
In some countries, including the UK, the altruistic donor has been linked to what is known as a ‘paired/pooled’ donation chain, which is what Caroline was a part of. When a living kidney donor and recipient are incompatible or mismatched with each other, it may be possible for them to be matched with another donor and recipient pair in the same situation and for the donor kidneys to be exchanged or swapped between the pairs. This means that each recipient receives a kidney from someone unknown, and the donors, likewise, donate to a recipient who is not known to them.
When two pairs are involved like this, it is called a paired donation, and with more than two pairs it is called pooled donation (see diagram below). The benefit of this type of donation is that each recipient receives a living donor transplant that they would not otherwise have had.