MRI patient thanks best friend for saving her life through organ donation

News posted 5 September, 2019

A patient at Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI), part of the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) has spoken of her gratitude to her best friend after she gave her the gift of life by donating one of her kidneys.

Helen Ashley, aged 29 from Sandbach has lived with kidney failure for 23 years and has recently had her second kidney transplant – but this time it was from her best friend, Lauren. Through sharing her story, she hopes to raise awareness of the disease and the importance of organ donation.

MRI hosts the largest kidney transplant unit in the UK and has performed almost 7,000 transplants since 1968.

Over the summer, Helen and her best friend Lauren underwent a living donor kidney transplant by specialists at the MRI and have both since made a full recovery.

Helen took to social media to share her experiences of living with renal failure, and the impact organ donation has had on her life. She said: “My absolutely beautiful and most selfless best friend gave me the gift of life and donated one of her kidneys.

Lauren and Helen four days post operation as Lauren was leaving to go home.

“She wasn’t a perfect match but good enough and considering she had come forward as a living donor, quality was on our side so we went ahead. A relatively simple operation for her, largely done through key hole followed by three and half days in hospital; she was walking the very next day after surgery and wandering around the Trafford Centre the day after her return home. This woman truly is superwoman!

“Lauren now has a few weeks off work but other than that, it impacts her in no way, she has just got married, is planning on continuing to carve out her already very successful career she’s built at the age of 25 and is planning on growing her family in the near future. We only need one kidney to live a normal life so there are no real side effects for the donor.”

50 years ago a kidney patient needed to be under 40 years of age, a non-smoker and physically fit before being considered for a transplant, whilst the donor had to be both a blood and tissue match.

Now, thanks to improved techniques and research, the dedicated team at the MRI Transplant Centre are able to perform successful mis-matched transplants with the best living donor transplant success rates and second highest deceased donor kidney transplant success rates after five years.

Jon Simpson, Medical Director at MRI said: “Without a transplant, kidney patients have to rely on dialysis treatment to keep them alive, which isn’t a long-term fix. Helen and Lauren’s story really highlights the impact this life-saving surgery can have on a transplant recipient, and shines a light on the generosity of the donor.

“There are currently more than 4600 patients nationwide on the waiting list for a kidney transplant and 443 patients actively on the MRI transplant waiting list. It’s really important that we talk to our families about organ donation, and understand and educate each other on how we can help save lives.”

This week, MFT are marking Organ Donation Week (September 2nd – 6th) across MRI and Wythenshawe Hospital, which are both at the forefront of specialist surgery for kidney, pancreas, heart and lung transplants in the North West.

Helen continued: “With Lauren’s gift I can go on to live life with an abundance of energy I had previously, be able to have a family which wouldn’t have been possible without a new kidney, and progress in my career without the hang ups of weekly hospital visits and the ball and chain that is dialysis.

“I’m spreading this story as a way to show my gratitude to my friend, hopefully cheer up others and show them that there are some diamonds left out in the world! Most importantly, I want to spread some knowledge about renal disease and the benefits of a living donation.”