Woman donates kidney for Christmas
One woman is spending today preparing to give the gift of life at Christmas by donating a kidney to a workmate.
Helen Cavanagh, 51, will be admitted to hospital on Boxing Day alongside Julie Rogers, 45, in readiness for a double operation lasting eight hours.
Mother-of-two Ms Rogers, from Hindley, near Wigan, suffers from polycystic kidney disease - which has already killed her grandfather, great aunt and aunt.
Both her mother and sister have the hereditary condition, and she has passed it on to her daughters, Jordan, 22, and Sophie, 19. Therefore no family member was suitable to donate.
Instead Mrs Cavanagh, a long-time workmate at the Royal Bank of Scotland, has offered to undergo the surgeon's knife to donate her own healthy organ.
"It's the gift of life," said Ms Rogers, who had her kidneys removed in 2011 and is on a long waiting list for a deceased matching donor.
"There's people dying all the time. She's the most important person in my life.
"They said at the hospital it was unusual, all the nurses seemed surprised she was a friend not a relative, how amazing it was."
Over the last seven years Ms Rogers' kidneys grew so large that people thought she was pregnant and she had to wear maternity clothes.
She struggled to breathe properly, was in a lot of pain and her eating and drinking has been severely restricted.
Ms Rogers, who works at RBS in Bolton, Greater Manchester, now undergoes dialysis three times a week for five and a half hours each session.
"The average life span is five years on dialysis, I'm now on my third year. Some people beat that statistic, some don't, my aunty didn't," she said.
"It makes you realise the statistics are real people.
"Quite a few people have said 'I will give you a kidney', it's something people want to say.
"I couldn't believe it, when Helen considered it.
"I was gobsmacked, I didn't know what to say. There was a long silence."
Mrs Cavanagh, a project manager with RBS in Manchester, would visit Ms Rogers at her home and began thinking about being a donor a year ago.
She said: "When I went to see her she was either trying to go to work, she always came into work when not really up to it, or sick, or on dialysis or asleep.
"I just thought 'I travel, do loads of sport, I just thought, 'that's not a life.' I just couldn't imagine that.
"Julie just seems to absorb it all. She's amazing."
After reading up about live donors she offered to donate a kidney to Ms Rogers, who was "overwhelmed".
"I just said 'I have got this stuff about live donors. I'm seriously thinking I would like to be your donor'," she said.
"Julie, being Julie, said 'What about your own health issues?' But that's typical of her.
"I couldn't do it for anybody."
Fortunately their blood group matched and after a series of physical and psychological assessments, doctors gave the op the go-ahead.
"I was just in the right place at the right time," added Mrs Cavanagh.
"When our blood types matched, it was just meant to be.
"People keep saying I'm brave, but you would have to meet Julie to know why I'm doing it.
"I've never had a major operation or even children so I'm in blissful ignorance what it's like. I'm told the morphine drip is marvellous!"
Mrs Cavanagh, who each year does a 100-mile challenge walk for charity, went for a stroll with Ms Rogers last summer - but her friend struggled to manage 200 yards, she was so weak.
Mrs Cavanagh added: "Julie said to me 'What if you can't do your 10-mile walk after it goes ahead?'.
"I said 'Well Julie, if you can walk 10 miles and I can walk 10 miles, then in my head I will have come to terms with it."
They will be admitted at 2pm on Boxing Day at the Manchester Royal Infirmary with the operation, lasting five hours for Mrs Cavanagh and three for Ms Rogers, taking place on Friday morning.
A spokeswoman for NHS Blood and Transplant said: "What Helen is doing is a very selfless act. She is doing something genuinely good for a friend in desperate need of a transplant.
"More than 1,000 people choose to donate an organ as a living donor each year and these rates are continuing to rise.
"There are currently more than 5,800 people waiting for a kidney in the UK and these people rely on the generosity of others donating their organs, in life or in death, to significantly improve their quality of life."