STUART Brechin may seem like any other 39-year-old dad-of-three from Millbrook, but remarkably he has undergone two life-saving kidney donations and has four kidneys.
Today, he says he is lucky to be alive enjoying life with his family and is counting down the days until he can thank the complete stranger who saved him.
“I can’t wait to thank her.
“I was about to give up before the transplant – I felt flat. Like there was no light at the end of the tunnel and nothing to look forward to.
“I felt drained all the time, instead of feeling like I was in my 30s, I felt like I was in my 60s. It was like I was running on two cylinders instead of four.
“I was existing – not living.”
Stuart suffers from IgA nephropathy – an incurable disease that can cause the kidneys to leak blood and protein into the urine.
The only hope of a cure is a kidney transplant.
A steel erector by trade, Stuart was so sick he was left unable to work and had to find part-time employment as a driver to ensure he could still pay the family bills.
Ten years ago, he underwent his first kidney transplant, but it failed.
“I thought it was going to last forever.
We were not prepared for this at all when it failed again.”
With the failed kidney transplant he had to spend four years on dialysis desperately waiting the kindness of a stranger to save him and had almost given up.
His wife, Dawn, says: “It was like Groundhog Day. Every day was the same.
“He had no energy. One day he would be at dialysis, then it would take the next day to recover and then the following day dialysis again, and so on and so on. It was just continuous.”
Stuart explains it is harder to match a donor the second time because the body develops antibodies which make the chance of rejection higher.
“They have to try to match the new kidney to the one from last time and my original two, even though none of them are working.
“I am still walking around with four kidneys, but only one of them works.
They don’t remove the others unless there is a problem.”
But in July last year the dad got the news the family had dreamed of.
A donor had come forward.
Following rigorous tests Stuart, who lives in Mansel Road East, underwent his transplant seven months ago and is recovering well.
“I was in hospital for almost a week. I had the op on the Tuesday and came home on the Sunday. I was quite stubborn, and I knew what to expect from the last time,” he says.
“I still have to have monthly check-ups at the moment. I am feeling a lot better since they started lowering the medication that suppresses my immune system to stop my body attacking the new kidney.
“The medications they give you are really strong and some people do not take well to them. But they are necessary – so there is less chance of you rejecting the kidney.
“I guess I am expecting this one to last about the same as the last, and this time I will make sure I save as much as I can when I get back to steel erection, just in case. The added stress of how we were going to pay the mortgage is not something I want to go through again.”
Stuart hopes that his story will make more people aware that it is possible to become altruistic donors, where the recipient and donor are not known to each other as long as they are over 18 and willing to undergo a series of medical and psychological tests to ensure suitability.
“I think people are scared and they do not realise you can donate a kidney to a stranger whilst you are alive. It needs more awareness so that people can come forward,”
Dawn, 38, adds: “Not everybody knows that you can live on one kidney. I didn’t know before Stuart got ill that you can live perfectly well with one kidney.
“I think it is a lot nicer from a living donor than one that has passed, because it is planned. The first time we got the call and we just had to go. This time, we knew a date and it was much easier to plan and not so much of a shock to the family.”
All the family know about the kindhearted donor is her first name and that she has children.
The woman had said that her one wish was that it went to a younger family.
Stuart says: “I’d love to know what went through her head. When I get to meet her, that is the first question that I will ask – what made you want to do that? And, does she know someone with kidney problems? We know she is married. We have received a couple of cards from her passed on through the Living Donor Co-ordination Team, which was really lovely.
“But we are not allowed to meet or know anything about her for two years. I would love to meet her.
“Some people really are so selfless and to do something so important for someone you don’t know is incredible.
There are still risks to her, being under the anaesthetic is a major risk.
“What an amazing lady.”
You could save a life by adding your name to the NHS Organ Donor Register. Go to: organdonation.nhs.uk or call 0300 123 23 23