Organ donation

Clare - Interview 37

Age at interview: 59

Brief outline: Clare became a non-directed living kidney donor in 2011, aged 59. She wanted to give something back after having valuable help with overcoming alcoholism and anorexia. At the time of interview, Clare was recovering well.

Background: Clare is a vet and single. Ethnic background / nationality' White British.

Audio & video

Clare became an non-directed (anonymous) living kidney donor in 2011, aged 59, and discussed her reasons for wanting to donate. In the early 80s, Clare had serious problems with alcohol and anorexia. She was depressed, sought help through the NHS, and was given psychotherapy sessions. She was lucky enough to see the same psychotherapist for the next twenty years or so. With the help of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), she also gave up drinking.

Clare said her life transformed over the next twenty years as she became very fit and healthy. She felt lucky and grateful to have received help to change her life and wanted to commemorate this by ‘giving something back’. She considered doing the London Marathon, but back pain meant that this was not possible. 

Out of the blue, Clare heard a radio programme about altruistic donation. For her, this was a ‘light bulb moment’ and she felt she would be a ‘perfect candidate’. She said, ‘I’m fit. I haven’t got dependants…..Also, being single and not having children, I’m aware that I haven’t left a mark on this life. Well hopefully I have, but there won’t be anything left after I’ve gone. By donating a kidney I will hopefully extend someone else’s life and a part of me, as a result of that, will live on. I will have been able to have given something back.’

The friends Clare spoke to about donating varied in the advice they gave. She was surprised at how many people were against the idea, including her AA sponsor and a friend who was a doctor. She sought advice from her now retired psychotherapist, who was in full support of the idea, and felt reassured enough to go ahead.

Clare did some research on the internet and recalled how difficult it was to find information. She then got in touch with the nearest transplant hospital and began the various physiological and psychological tests to see if she was suitable. She also got in touch with another anonymous kidney donor, who she read about in a newspaper. She said she received valuable support from her and, while Clare was at recovering at home, they met up.

One of the biggest hurdles for Clare was her employer, who did not want to give her time off work. They could not arrange cover for her and so the operation was delayed. She took the time off as annual and unpaid leave, and has now applied for reimbursement of her costs.

Eighteen months after she decided to donate, Clare was given a date for the surgery. Leading up to it, friends were surprised at how relaxed she was. On the day of the operation, she called the hospital but could not get through. When she did, she was told there were no beds available. This uncertainty made Clare feel anxious. After waiting almost all day, she was admitted that evening and the operation took place the following morning.

The operation went very well and Clare was discharged from hospital within a week of being admitted. At the time of interview, she was recovering well and had started exercising again. She was happy that someone else’s life had been transformed because of her donation and advised other people to register for organ donation.


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