Organ donation

Maggie - Interview 36

Age at interview: 66

Brief outline: Maggie donated a kidney to an anonymous recipient in 2007, when she was 62. She recovered well and is keen to raise awareness of living kidney donation. She believes that the NHS should cover the costs incurred by altruistic donors.

Background: Maggie is married and has two adult children. She is a retired teacher.Ethnic background / nationality' White British.

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Around 2005, Maggie had a conversation with friends about living kidney donation. A friend of a friend had received a kidney from his son. Now, however, it had rejected and this man was facing the prospect of life on dialysis. Maggie started wondering about kidney donation and the possibility of donating to someone outside the family.

Maggie discussed living kidney donation with her husband and two adult daughters as something she would like to consider doing. After initial questions about risk to her own health, they were all supportive.

After seeing her GP, Maggie was referred to a hospital with a transplant unit. She heard nothing for several weeks and asked her GP for another referral. She later received a call from a specialist nurse [transplant co-ordinator], who Maggie said was quite rude and suggested she forget the whole idea. Non-directed (anonymous) living kidney donation was not legal in the UK at this time.

Maggie decided to talk to one of her neighbours, a professor in the health field. He put her in touch with a surgeon at another hospital, who then set up all the physiological and psychological tests that Maggie needed to have.

Maggie was surprised at the reaction of some of her friends, who felt that what she was doing was wrong. Other friends, though, were supportive and understanding.

Maggie had her surgery at the end of November 2007, aged 62, shortly after anonymous living kidney donation became legal in the UK. Before going ahead, she had some re-tests as there had been a gap between her first set of tests and non-directed kidney donation becoming legal.

The operation went well and Maggie was discharged from hospital a few days later with paracetamol. Through her GP, she got stronger pain killers and, over a period of seven weeks, recovered well. She said progress was slow at first. She had bad indigestion but experienced no serious complications.

Maggie went back to work seven weeks after surgery, into a stressful teaching job, and felt she’d needed more time to recover mentally. She took a further seven weeks off work for stress and, shortly afterwards, retired. Maggie is now healthy and well and has annual check-ups through her GP. 

Maggie felt strongly that the costs incurred by anonymous donors should be covered by the NHS, which she believed would save a lot of money in the long-run when a patient no longer needed dialysis. Before agreeing to donate, she asked that the NHS pay for her sick leave.

Maggie was one of the first few people in the UK to donate a kidney to an anonymous recipient. Before and after surgery, her story attracted media attention. To raise awareness of living kidney donation, Maggie took part in radio, television and newspaper interviews. She continues to raise awareness of kidney donation and has recently been keen to talk to religious faith leaders.


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