Dietitian Claire celebrates 21st anniversary of her kidney transplant at Southmead Hospital

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Dietitian Claire Downer feels that she is living proof that organ donation works – having celebrated 21 years since her kidney transplant this week.

It is Organ Donor Week and NHS Organ Donation is using the initiative to remind prospective donors the importance of discussing their wishes with relatives and that “words save lives”.Claire received her kidney from a deceased donor in an operation at Southmead Hospital and feels that it is thanks to the transplant that she has been able to work for the Trust as a dietitian for the last 16 years.

And this weekend (on Saturday, September 8) she will take part in Southmead Hospital Charity’s Amazing Abseil Adventure abseiling from the top of the Brunel building in support of the renal team.

When she was eight-years-old Claire was diagnosed with renal failure and spent a month in the old children’s unit at Southmead.

She had been suffering with headaches and when her mum took her to the opticians she was found to be virtually blind in one eye and was taken to hospital. Claire was transferred to Southmead when it was discovered her symptoms were a result of high blood pressure connected with her kidney failing.



When she was 13 Claire was put on dialysis to carry out the functions of her kidney and when she was 14 she had her first kidney transplant. Unfortunately Claire’s first transplant only worked for about two and a half years.

Claire was on dialysis during her time at university and it was while she was doing her masters to become a dietitian, about to start her clinical placement, that she got the call to say that a kidney had become available.

“I waited a long time for this kidney, but it’s been a good one,” Claire said.

“Until the last three months before my transplant I was reasonably well on dialysis, but it definitely came when I needed it. I was one of the lucky ones. I know a lot of people waiting for transplants, some for many, many years.

“It’s really important that people who want to save lives by donating their organs are telling their loved ones.”

Since having her transplant Claire has taken part in both the British and World Transplant Games, playing racquet sports and has won numerous medals.

Kidney transplants at Southmead Hospital

It is 50 years since the first kidney transplant was carried out at Southmead Hospital and it remains the largest centre for renal transplant carrying out more than 100 every year.

So far in 2018 110 kidney transplants have been carried out at Southmead Hospital, with 85 from deceased donors and 25 from living. 

Since altruistic living kidney donation - where people donate a kidney to someone they do not know - was brought in 23 transplants have been carried out at Southmead Hospital. 

There have been 30 transplants at Southmead involving living donors and recipients who have gone through the paired/pooled sceheme. This involves people who are not a match to donate to their loved one but could be suitable as a living donor for someone else and the pair are matched up with other pairs who are appropriate.