We grew up in Dulwich, South East London, in a loving, caring and nurturing West Indian family, with my older brother Richard, me and four younger siblings.
We always have a very close sibling relationship, and this was something our parents instilled and nurtured. Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of sibling rivalry when we were children, we fought like any other family, but I recall my parents always saying, “don’t fight with your brother or sister, they will become your best friends one day”. We never forgot those words as they remained with us throughout adulthood.
Richard had always had a kidney problem which was identified when he was 18 years old, I don’t think any of us really understood what this entailed at the time, and for me being 17 at the time, I guess I didn’t really think about it. Richard has put it to the back of his mind and continued to have his yearly check-ups.
However, fast forward to 2007, Richard’s Consultant informed him that his kidney function was deteriorating due to a previous infection, and he would eventually require a kidney transplant. I recall him telling our family this news and I said, at the time, that if my kidneys were ok, I would happily donate, I made that comment without thought or hesitation.
Two years later, it became necessary for Richard to receive a kidney transplant, and, without hesitation, I decided to start the process of having medical checks to donate my right kidney. I did this without telling Richard or my parents as I didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up, just in case, as you never know with these things, disappointment can always rear its ugly head and I didn’t want to have to put them through that.
The medical checks, which included absolutely every check you can think of, took some 10 months and once I got the all clear, it was then that I told my parents, I recall telling my mum as she looked into my eyes and said “are you sure Pol” with a tear in her eye, she had tears of varying emotions, the love of her first born son, having a better quality of life and her daughter undergoing a major operation as a well person with risk to life. But I had made my mind up that it was something I wanted to do, and nothing would stop me.
When I told Richard, that I had taken all the tests and I am a match he Initially didn’t want me to do it, but I reminded him of the promise I made and together we decided this was the right thing to do. We had our family’s full support throughout all the process. Our father was a little hesitant, but he soon came around.
Richard spent 6 months of dialysis and occasionally I would pop into the to see how the process worked, believe me it was an eye opener.
The transplant took place on 18th January 2011, it went well for both of us, and recovery, for me although was smooth, took longer, as it does for any Live Kidney Donor. I got weekly health checks, then monthly and now I have checks on a yearly basis. I returned to work 9 weeks later. It has now 12 years since the donation and my brother, and I are doing very well. My health is good, I drink lots of water and eat well, most of the time!
Unfortunately, we lost our beloved Mother two months before the transplant took place, which made it so much harder, but we were pleased she knew that we were going to do this, and we had her blessing.
Today, Richard is getting on with life, enjoying his family, and his grandchildren, not taking anything for granted. He keeps fit and trains with his son a few days a week.
I am glad that I made the decision to donate and have no regrets, to give my brother more years with his family and to live and fulfil a healthy life without spending his days on dialysis, is a beautiful thing and for that I am truly thankful.