Organ Donation Week: "I've got my husband back", says wife of transplant recipient

Friday, 9 September 2016

We are supporting Organ Donation Week this week, raising awareness of transplants.

North Bristol NHS Trust is a specialist centre for kidney transplants, carrying out around 30 live donor transplants a year and more than 100 operations using organs from deceased donors.

Kristian Law is one of the patients who has benefited from a kidney transplant in the last year.

In December he received the new organ at Southmead Hospital after his wife Melissa donated one of hers and it has given him a new lease of life.

While the hope had been for Melissa to donate her kidney directly to her husband, the couple became part of a paired/pooled donation where Kristian received an organ from a stranger, while his wife’s went to someone else.

Since pooled live donations started in 2006 there have been about 20 carried out at Southmead Hospital.

Kristian discovered he would eventually need a new kidney six years ago, when as a result of the lupus he had been diagnosed with about seven years before, it was discovered that his kidney had been irreparably damaged and its function was deteriorating.

The Law family after Kristian had his kidney transplant at Southmead Hospital BristolIt was important for the couple to have a family and that was an important consideration for them in the process.

Kristian’s kidney continued to work longer than expected, and it was not until the end of 2014 it was necessary for him to start dialysis to perform the function of his kidney, by which time they had their sons eight-year-old Rufus and Gruff, who is four.

At this point it became apparent that a donor would need to be found for Kristian and Melissa underwent tests to see if she would be suitable, starting with blood group and tissue match testing.

At this early stage it was discovered that one of her kidneys might not be the best option for Kristian and an alternative donor would be preferable as it would probably last longer and pooled pairing donation was considered.

Tests followed and the couple were put forward for pooled pairing in October 2015 and within a week discovered they had been matched. There were four other people in the chain. Kristian received a kidney from a donor, and Melissa’s donated kidney went to a woman, whose husband’s was given to someone on the transplant waiting list.

The transplants were carried out in December and had to be meticulously planned so that all of the operations to obtain kidneys from the donors happened at exactly the same time.

For Kristian it took receiving his new kidney to “realise just how ill I’d actually been”, as he had felt lucky to have remained fairly active in the run up to and during dialysis.

He said: “Initially it was the sensation of having a clear head and not being dog-tired all the time. Then it was a visible increase in my energy levels which then allowed me to do all the normal things without having to think about them....even if you are lucky enough to undertake dialysis without complications, just the vast amount of logistics you have to think about has a significant impact on your life.

“In the nine months since the transplant I've been back at work and travelling around the country. I've been to gigs and for nights out with friends. Most importantly, we've been able to get on with family life and with me making a full contribution! Whether this is dropping the children off at nursery or school, taking them to football or swimming or just messing around in the garden.”

Kristian said that having the transplant meant the family could enjoy a “long overdue” holiday abroad, without needing to rely other friends and family to support them, enjoying a break as “just the four of us”.

“All of this is thanks to my amazing wife, Melissa and her selfless act,” he said.

“Not only do I have the benefit but to think that somebody else is also walking around enjoying life to the full because of Melissa is incredible.”

And Melissa feels that she has got her husband back.

“Within a couple of months he had noticeably more energy and we have a normal life now, which is great,” she said.

“I feel like my kidney has gone to Kristian, I don’t think so much of it going to someone else.

“Seeing Kristian doing well is enough for me.

“Although, I received a card from the woman who received my kidney and she said she would look after it, which was great and all I needed to hear.”