Monday 26 January 2015

Why I gave one of my kidneys to a stranger

Kate Brady tells Lisa Jewell about her altruistic life-changing decision

Kate Brady, kidney donor story Lisa Jewell   Pix Ronan Lang/Feature File
Kate Brady, kidney donor story Lisa Jewell Photo: Ronan Lang

'Everyone's initial reaction was just: 'What?' They thought I was mad," says Kate Brady on how people responded when she told them she was donating a kidney to a stranger.

But Kate held firm to her desire to benefit someone else and donated her kidney to a man through a London hospital.

This type of donation – called non-directive altruistic donation – is not available in Ireland but is in other countries such as the UK (since 2006) and the US.

Kate, who is 32 and from Brittas, Co Dublin, had long been a blood donor, but the thought of donating a kidney came through the film Seven Pounds. Will Smith's character tries to benefit as many people's lives as possible, and his methods include kidney- and bone-marrow donation.

"I saw that and was so inspired at the end of the film. I just thought, 'I'd like to be able to do something like that'. Some people said not to say that I was inspired by a film as it makes it sound like you're crazy.

"But you know, you get your inspiration from everywhere – an article, a book, a conversation. I thought of all those people stuck in hospital beds and not being able to live while I had two kidneys and could live completely fine on one.

"With my health, I just never get sick and I feel really strong – both physically and in my head as well."

Kate says her mind was made up while driving home from the cinema, and she decided that if the risks of kidney donation all seemed reasonable, she was going to go ahead and do it.

"I went home and researched it for a while. I was okay with the risks – obviously they were there, but I feel there are risks with every operation. I'm not a big worrier. I just weigh up everything in my head and think chances are it will be fine.

"So I rang up a place in Dublin saying I'd like to volunteer and they said it's not possible to donate to a stranger in Ireland and the closest place would be the UK."

That was in 2008. Life took Kate to Boston for a year and then she got a job in London. She is still there and works as a behaviour analyst with autistic children.

"One day, I must have been reminded of it and thought I should look into it. So I rang up the hospital in London. I went in to talk to someone and got the ball rolling."

Kate was made aware of the risks and had to undergo medical tests and a psychological evaluation.

When asked why she wanted to help someone who was a stranger, Kate says she just felt it was in her nature.

"My mum was worried and said she'd be relieved if I didn't pass the tests to do it," she says, "but she said she was obviously proud of me and if that was my decision, that was my decision.

"My three brothers – all quite strong characters – all strongly disagreed and tried to talk me out of it. The younger two eventually came around, but the oldest one just really disagreed with it. There were a lot of 'What ifs' thrown in, but I could answer a lot of them.

"I was asked why didn't I wait until I was older, but I thought, well, if I was to wait until I have kids and a house, it wouldn't be easy to take the time off to do this."

Irish Independent

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