A man whose life was saved by an organ donor after an agonising 13-year wait for a new kidney has urged more people to sign up to the NHS register.
Douglas Goss, from Hillsborough, has opened up about his experiences as a patient as new statistics reveal the huge demand on the UK’s transplant waiting list.
NHS Blood and Transplant said 158 people in South Yorkshire are currently waiting for a transplant, with 57 waiting more than two years.
And 15 people in the county have been waiting longer than five years.
Almost 7,000 people in the UK are currently on the waiting list – with more than 500 of them having been waiting longer than five years.
In the last decade, more than 6,000 people – including 270 children – have died waiting for a transplant.
Douglas, aged 51, said he has been given a new lease of life after receiving a kidney – and has backed the NHS Blood and Transplant campaign to get more people in South Yorkshire to become registered donors so their organs can be used to save the lives of others after they die.
He said: “It is the greatest gift you can give. When you go, you will go.
“You don’t need those things but you can give them so other people can live and have a better life.”
Douglas was first diagnosed with kidney failure when he was just 16.
His condition worsened when he was in his mid-20s and he was put on dialysis.
As he became more ill, Douglas was having to be treated three times a week for up to five hours at a time – making living an ordinary life and holding down a job essentially impossible.
His strict diet meant he was not allowed to eat some of his favourite foods, with things like chocolate, bananas and nuts all banned.
Douglas was also only allowed 750ml of liquid every day, including intake of things like coffee and tea as well as water – meaning he was constantly thirsty.
He was put on the transplant list and finally received a call in January 2013 that a suitable kidney was available for him.
He said: “I got the call at 2am in the morning. It is a bit of a funny feeling – you are waiting for somebody to die to make you live. I had a lot of conflicted feelings about that.”
Douglas received his kidney from a motorcyclist who died – and whose kidneys saved two lives. He said following his operation he contacted the family of the man who died to thank them.
“I did write to the family through NHS Blood and Transplant to say how much I appreciated it because although they had lost a son, he had allowed two people to have the gift of life and it was amazing. I still think of him. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here.”
Douglas said that it had been emotionally draining having to wait so long for a transplant.
“For the first two or three years, I was depressed, thinking I was going to die. I was quite down and thinking there is not much point to life. But I generally have a fairly positive outlook on life and it wasn’t getting me anywhere. But I was getting sicker and sicker. They don’t put you on the list as soon as you get kidney problems, you have to wait until you are very sick.
“I lost my first job because I was too sick. I was going to be a chef but was not fit enough to do the hours.”
He said that his dialysis treatment meant he could not work full-time, despite wanting to.
“It was difficult financially. You get some sickness benefit but it is not a life of joy and happiness. I always wanted to work and do stuff.
“I got married and that helped – my wife supports me and she was a big help.”
Prior to his transplant, Douglas had his original kidneys removed to assist with his medical treatment.
But what was supposed to be a routine operation went wrong and he ended up almost dying, spending nearly a month in intensive care.
Douglas said his life has now been transformed by his transplant and he now works part-time for a private health insurance company, as well as being able to enjoy more time with his niece and nephews.
“It is so much different. Even though the kidney is not a perfect match and I only have 27 per cent function with it, I can lead a lot more of a normal life. I do more swimming, I’m a lot more active and can go out and eat. Before, I couldn’t eat in restaurants, you have to have food specially prepared.
“It is the little things that get to you – you couldn’t have a packet of crisps, you couldn’t go out for a beer.”
Douglas himself is leading by example in the campaign to sign up more organ donors, as he is on the transplant register himself.
He said: “I have offered my organs because I want other people to have the same experience I have – the benefits of a happier life.”
Sally Johnson, NHS blood and transplant director of Organ Donation and Transplantation, said: “Statistically, more than one in 10 people on the waiting list will die before they get the transplant they need. For some organs, the picture is bleaker. More than one in four people waiting for lungs will die. I’d ask you to imagine how you’d feel if someone close to you was waiting for a transplant; their whole life on hold, hoping someone will donate to save them. I’m sure we’d all hope an organ would be available to help someone we love – so shouldn’t we all pledge to be organ donors so more lives can be saved?
“If you haven’t told those closest to you that you want to be an organ donor, please do it today. Record your decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register.”
n To join go to organdonation.nhs.uk or call 0300 1232323.