Lives are being saved by a pioneering “swap shop” scheme which sees people donate organs in return for a transplant for their loved ones.
The “paired-pooling” system can be used where family members want to donate a kidney to loved ones but are found not to be a match.
Kath Tann, of Linthwaite, Huddersfield, is raising awareness of the scheme after her family life was transformed when a kidney transplant was found for her husband, Ian. Mr Tann, 50, fell ill two years ago and was diagnosed with a Good Pastures Disease, a rare autoimmune condition which damaged his kidney function.
After he was put on the kidney transplant waiting list, Mrs Tann was tested but could not be matched as a donor. But a transplant was found after Mrs Tann, 43, donated a kidney as part of the pooling scheme.
She said: “It’s pretty miraculous stuff. It’s like a swap shop. In our case we were in a pooled donation chain. I was one of three donors who donated a kidney to one of three recipients all on the same day. We don’t know where Ian’s kidney came from and I do not know where mine went.”
Mrs Tann said she and her husband were lucky to be matched quickly after joining the pooling scheme and enjoyed their first holiday after the transplant with daughter Clara, 12, and Elsa seven.
She said: “Instantly Ian was a different person. It’s like a miracle. I feel like it’s the best thing we’ve ever done.
“It has transformed our lives and I really hope my kidney has been able to do that for somebody else. We just existed before this. We couldn’t go on holiday because Ian needed dialysis six times a week. I have got my husband back and the girls have got their dad back.”
Yesterday, Mrs Tann was among those who took part in Be a Hero Day to raise awareness of organ donation at Leeds General Infirmary.
The event was part of the Be a Hero Campaign, launched in 2015 by Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.
Since the campaign was launched the number of people in Yorkshire and Humber waiting for a transplant has almost halved, from 800 to 483, but 34 people died while on the transplant waiting list last year.
People who wish to be donors after they die are being urged to speak to family members who have the final say over what happens to their organs.
Claire Tordoff, Intensive Care Consultant and Clinical Lead for Organ Donation at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “When we talk to families about organ donation there is a timeframe to it and they have to make the decision quite quickly, often in very difficult and tragic circumstances.
“What this campaign is about is encouraging people to sign the organ donor register, but more importantly have that discussion with their families.”