Oh yes you can! When I heard the radio appeal asking for live donors to part with a kidney, I punched my husband (sitting alongside me at lunch) and shouted that's something I can do! I don't think he thought it would ever happen.
It took many months and trips from our Scottish Borders village to the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh visiting all the most expensive pieces of hospital equipment before I got there. Tests for every bit of me and blood samples taken at every turn. The phlebotomist was called in once or twice as my veins got bored with giving and would only supply for her. So I had a magnificent road test and was deemed fit.
Others who have been down this road have been a bit upset by the necessary meeting with a psychiatrist. But even that proved entertaining -- he was friendly and witty and I did see he needed to establish my reasons for this peculiar move. I learned that one woman was trying to do this without telling her husband. Well I wasn't so daft. He saw my husband too – I don't know what detail these two went into, but I thought husband looked a little sheepish when I collected him!
Who's got it people ask. Well I know the recipient is a man and lives in England, not Scotland. It is up to him to contact me if he wants to. I've heard he is going to write. But I am just happy to know that it has all worked, and very well I gather.
Why did you do it, ask others. So many different motives. There are few simple civic gestures that we can make – like giving blood – and this just came my way. I can give a bit of a life again to someone doomed to the dialysis machine I thought. No children of my own, so less responsibility there. Long years of happy marriage, so husband just resigned and not upset. Too much privilege in my life, so giving something to someone less fortunate seemed a good notion. No fear of hospitals or operations. Didn't seem all that big a deal, in short.
And I knew, of course, that the team would take the very greatest care – which, of course, they did! I have nothing but praise for the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
After I set up the charity Paintings in Hospitals Scotland in 1991, I had spent some time in the renal unit in the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, run at that time by Dr. Anderton, putting up our rented paintings. Dr. Anderton had bought many pictures himself for the unit, so I did a complete re-hang, left a brilliantly decorated unit and had an understanding of the miseries and tedium of being on dialysis.
So what actually happened, then? Well I arrived on a Monday ready for surgery the following morning. But, alas, my intended recipient had developed a sore throat and was unable to receive my kidney. Think how awful for him! (Somehow I had learned it was a man.) When I telephoned my husband and said I just had to write, back came the reply "But don't make it sentimental!" So my card just said I was sorry we hadn't managed it and wished him good luck. Surely, disappointment must be one of the many variables when it comes to who is next!