Patient marks 10th anniversary of altruistic kidney donation in Scotland

The 10th anniversary of the first altruistic kidney donor in Scotland has been marked by one of the first patients to undergo the procedure.

John Fletcher was joined by Gabriel Oniscu, the consultant transplant surgeon at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary who carried out the operation, at the hospital on Monday to mark the milestone.

The 72-year-old donated his kidney to a stranger in March 2009, becoming one of 78 people to do so in Scotland since that time.

Mr Fletcher, from Auchtermuchty in Fife, described it as “the best thing I ever did”.

He said: “At the time, people around me thought I was crazy for even considering it. But if I could do it all over again, I would.

“The way I looked at it, it was a few weeks out of my life to save someone else’s. It was major surgery, but the recovery was a lot quicker than I expected, and I was back at work within weeks.

“The feeling I had not been expecting was the sense of wellbeing after I’d donated, knowing I’d transformed another person’s life, and their future.”

Altruistic kidney donation is one of two routes to being a donor, with directed donations also being made to a person’s friend, relative or partner rather than a stranger.

A healthy person can live normally with one kidney, meaning an altruistic donor can start a transplant “chain” which could see up to three people benefit and receive a transplant.

Mr Oniscu said: “Over the past ten years, living donation has developed into being an important part of our transplant activity, and it’s fair to say that without it, a significant number of patients would not be alive today.

“I continue to be astonished and humbled by the generosity of people who come forward to donate a kidney to a complete stranger, and it’s a privilege to be part of that process.

“Transplantation is full of special moments, as you see the benefits a donated organ brings in terms of prolonging and enriching someone’s quality of life.”

An awareness drive is now being launched ahead of World Kidney Day on Thursday.

Research of 1,000 adults in Scotland indicated nearly a third (30%) had not heard of living kidney donation.

It also suggested 83% would be likely to consider donating to a family member, 56% to a friend, 24% to a colleague and 16% to a stranger.

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “Living kidney donation is an exceptional gift which has the power to transform the life of someone who needs a kidney transplant.

“Over 800 people in Scotland have helped others by donating a kidney in the last decade, however there are still more than 400 people in Scotland in need of a kidney.

“There is a wealth of information and support available for anyone considering being a donor.”