PAUL AND MADGE’S STORY

Paul and Madge’s story

Many brothers and sisters are close – but Madge and Paul Reynolds share a special bond that very few others do.

Five years ago Paul donated one of his kidneys to Madge so that she could continue to live a normal life after her own kidneys failed.

The alarm had been raised a further five years previously, when Walsall group exercise teacher Madge was pregnant with daughter Scarlett, now 10.

Protein showed up in a routine urine sample and she was referred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (QEHB), where tests revealed that she was suffering from IgA Nephropathy.

With this condition the antibody Immunoglobulin A settles in the kidney causing inflammation – the body’s own immune system is effectively damaging the kidney.

However, it is one of the less severe kidney diseases, usually continuing unchanged for many years or sometimes even disappearing over time with kidney failure only developing in a minority of cases.

Madge, now aged 49, said: “I remember the doctors told me that if you are going to have a kidney condition, this was the one to have, because it could be up to 20 years down the line before you may need a transplant.”

One of the unlucky ones
Madge was one of the unlucky ones, though, and within five years her kidney function had fallen to just five percent – with doctors astonished that she was managing without regular dialysis.

“When I was told I needed a transplant, I just burst into tears,” she said. “They told me I needed to talk to my family about the live donor programme. That was the toughest moment.”

Remarkably, Paul and Madge’s three sisters – Janice, Joanne and Jill – all turned out to be compatible donors but Paul insisted that he would be the one to give up a kidney – to prevent his other sisters possibly jeopardising plans to have children in the future.

Paul, who is a telecomms consultant now based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, went through further tests and eventually a date was set for the transplant – January 24, 2011.

Now, almost five years later, Madge has been re-admitted to QEHB once when she picked up an infection but otherwise has had no issues. She still teaches exercise five days a week and is determined to live life to the full.

She has appointments at the hospital every four months and has to plan life around the daily cocktail of more than 30 tablets but has a hugely positive outlook.

“I know I’m under the care of the QE for the rest of my life,” she said. “But I’m living a good life and I can’t complain. I’ve got the scars to prove what I’ve been through, but that’s a small price to pay.

“My brother’s given me a gift and I’ve now got a life to live and I am enjoying it. Life is good after a transplant.

“I could have been going three or four times a week having dialysis – but my life isn’t like that and that’s thanks to Paul.

“We are close and this has brought us closer. I class my brother as my hero and I am very, very thankful and that’s why I live my life to the full. If I didn’t it would be wasting his gift.

Celebrate anniversary of my transplant every year
“We go out on the anniversary of the transplant every year. March 7 is when I was born but 24 January, 2011, is the day that I was reborn. That’s the day when my life changed because of that transplant.”

Paul, aged 46, had no hesitation in volunteering when Madge spoke to him about the possibility of being a donor.

“My only concern was for Madge and her daughter Scarlett, she needed a healthy Mum,” he said.

“Health wise, I’d never had any problems and my priority was to do something to help Madge. It was my decision. From the day she first told me I had insisted I would do it – and that didn’t change when our other sisters turned out to be compatible.”

And Paul insists he had no worries about the operation or facing the rest of his own life with just one kidney.

“The only time I got nervous was in the holding area before the transplant. But before I knew it I was being woken up in recovery,” he went on.

“It all went very well and I have had no problems since. I’m back to normality, really. I just have an annual check up to make sure my remaining kidney is fine. There are plenty of people out there who cope with one kidney.”

And in National Transplant Week Paul has urged people – especially in the black and Asian community, where there is often more reluctance – to sign up to the donor register and possibly change someone else’s life.

Giving the gift of life is a great achievement
“I’ve given that gift of life and you can’t do more than that,” he said. “What a great achievement. There aren’t many people who will have that as a legacy.

“Okay, I did it for my sister, but if the opportunity is there for you to make a real difference to someone else’s life, why not do it?”

To join the NHS Organ Donation Register go to www.organdonation.nhs.uk or telephone 0300 123 23 23. Anyone can register. Age isn’t a barrier to being an organ or tissue donor and neither are most medical conditions. One donor can save or transform up to nine lives and many more can be helped through the donation of tissues.

Story posted/last updated: 10 September 2015