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Event at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness hears about living organ donation

By Ian Duncan

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Living Donor Co-ordinator Sarah Lundie.
Living Donor Co-ordinator Sarah Lundie.

An information evening at Raigmore Hospital was aimed at those who were interested in becoming living donors.

Julie Munro (37) from Inverness, was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease but had a successful transplant from a living donor during the Easter of 2014.

She is hoping to raise awareness of the benefits of living organ donation because demand often exceeds available kidneys from deceased donors.

Speaking at an information evening at Raigmore Hospital, which was aimed at those who were interested in becoming living donors and wanted to find out more, she said she was first put onto dialysis, with the hope of finding a match, in 2010.

She said: “It had an affect on my life. I was very tired – I didn’t know how tired I was until I had my transplant.”

But she tried to lead a normal life by getting married to husband Dennis, her one day off from dialysis, and enjoyed going skiing in the Cairngorms. She said: “We went on honeymoon and we took the dialysis machine with us.”

Her family was tested as potential donors but, for various reasons, they were not suitable – her brother-in-law, 43-year-old Steven Burnside from Milton of Leys, was also tested and he was found to be a close match but still unsuitable in 2012.

Julie Munro is a donor recipient.
Julie Munro is a donor recipient.

Mrs Munro finally got the phone call she was waiting for in November 2013, to tell her that they had found a suitable living donor, only to be told a month later that the operation could not go ahead.

She said: “I don’t know how else to describe it, I was deflated. I got the call at work and I just burst into tears at work. I couldn’t drive home – I had to get my mum to pick me up from work.”

As a person who had proved a “difficult match” she thought that was her only chance but just two months later she got a second call telling her they had found another match. “Again I burst into tears,” she said. “My husband couldn’t get a word out of me – I couldn’t explain it. It was a very short time between calls but it seemed a very long time.”

Living donor Steven Burnside.
Living donor Steven Burnside.

Mr Burnside was also found to be a suitable donor for different recipient and the pair underwent surgery at the same time at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.

Mrs Munro said the day of the operation was the “longest day of my life”, because she was just waiting for the transplant to happen, and she could not help but worry over the possibility of complications.

However, almost six years later they are both doing fine and leading normal lives – Mr Burnside used to enjoy long distance running and has since tackled some ultra marathons such as the 96-mile West Highland Way.

However the biggest surprise was when Mrs Munro fell pregnant after her transplant – daughter Bria is now almost three years old. She said: “That I would have a family at some point was so far from my mind.”

Mr Burnside said he had no regrets on becoming a living donor and his sense of satisfaction had increased when he saw the improvement in his sister-in-law’s health following her transplant.

Andrew Douse, a 64-year-old field biologist from Drumnadrochit, is known as a non-directed altruistic kidney donor – he decided to donate the organ without knowing who would be the recipient – and said he decided to volunteer after he lost his wife to pancreatic cancer in 2013.

He said he discussed the idea with his two daughters and they were very supportive of what he wanted to do.

His operation was in July 2017 and after the procedure he said he was very tired with a walk to the local shop taking four times longer than the usual five minutes.

However, he is now back to his normal active self and said he had no regrets with the end result being an “extreme sense of satisfaction”. He added: “This is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life, I mean that very sincerely. If I could do it again I would but I’ve only got one kidney left.”

Dr Nicola Joss said people needing a kidney spent an average of 706 days on the deceased donor waiting list but organs which came from a living person usually lasted longer – in 2018/2019 there were 984 living kidney donor transplants in the UK.

Dr Andrew Sutherland.
Dr Andrew Sutherland.

Consultant surgeon Dr Andrew Sutherland said: “Living donor kidneys tend to function faster and better and last longer than a kidney from a donor who has died.”

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