Life Stories

I Gave My Brother A Kidney

My brother, Graham Matthew, was first diagnosed with kidney failure in 1982 whilst working in the Medical Laboratory Scientific Office at Stracathro Hospital Brechin.  He didn't feel unwell in the early stages but the disease gradually crept up on him over the years.  He enjoyed an active life, including squash and hill walking, but found it increasingly difficult; he had no energy to enjoy time with his wife, Linzi, and children, Rebecca and Greig.

In May 2002 he was told that he would eventually need a transplant.  By the end of the year he was on dialysis, which he found very difficult.  He was now working as Chief Biomedical Scientist at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.  He would get home from work and almost immediately have to prepare the equipment to dialyse for eight hours a night seven nights a week.  He was placed on the transplant list in November 2002. This was when I stepped in to offer one of my kidneys.  First of all, I approached Linzi and asked her if she thought he would be willing to accept my offer.  We both knew that it would be hard to get him to accept it, but I was determined that, if it was at all possible, we would go ahead.

After much persuasion and 12 months of tests the operation was planned for 21st January 2004 at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, ten days before Graham's 40th birthday.  On the day of the operation I was taken down to theatre first to remove my left kidney.  Graham spent the next two hours worrying whether everything was okay or not, before then being taken to theatre to have my kidney transplanted into him.  When we awoke from the operation we were in beds facing each other.  My first words were: "Is Graham okay?" and they told me everything had gone to plan.  Graham described it as a veil lifting; he felt totally different and improved, hour by hour.

I made a speedy recovery and went home after about five days, whilst Graham remained in hospital for three weeks.  He returned to work in May 2004.

The difference in him is amazing - he now leads a normal life.  He has taken part in The UK and World Transplant Games many times, winning both gold and silver medals for squash; he visited Bangkok and Australia to take part.  He is also now a very keen swimmer.  He did a charity swim across the Channel to raise funds for Diabetes UK and he also swims regularly in the waters around Scotland with his son, Greig.

I returned to work after around eight weeks and have had no after-effects.  You don't notice any difference, having only one kidney.

What makes it all worthwhile, though, is seeing what a difference it has made to Graham and his family.  If I could do it all again tomorrow, to help someone else get their life back, I would.  I just wish there were more organs available for donation; it is so life-changing.