Husband gives his kidney to wife
Dec 8 2008 by Madeleine Brindley, Western Mail
Melanie Dark has just received the Christmas present of a lifetime... her husband Chris gave her his kidney. Health Editor Madeleine Brindley spoke to the couple
WHEN her first kidney transplant failed 11 years ago Melanie Dark faced a lifetime on dialysis.
A combination of numerous blood transfusions, the failed transplant and giving birth to her daughter Kelly, meant that her body would reject any new kidney which was less than a perfect match.
But Melanie is now recovering after her husband Chris donated her a kidney, even though they do not share the same blood group.
She is the first woman in Wales and only the fourth patient in the nation to undergo treatment which allows non-compatible kidneys to be transplanted.
Speaking from her home near Llanelli, the mother of one, who was discharged from hospital last week, said: “The chances of me having another cadaveric kidney were very low because I would have needed such a good match.
“I was called up twice in the last 11 years but the transplant never went ahead because my body would have rejected the kidney immediately.
“I thought I was going to be on haemodialysis forever – that was really hard, it was devastating.”
Melanie’s kidneys were destroyed by a disease and she had her first transplant in 1984 at the age of 21. It began to fail 10 years later and she was forced back on to dialysis in 1997.
“Chris had been on about donating me a kidney for years and years but we were told that it wouldn’t work so we put it on the back burner.”
Chris, 46, said: “There was no sign of Mel having a transplant because she had problems with her antibodies and her blood, making it more and more difficult for her to have a kidney from a donor who had passed away.
“She has been on a [haemodialysis] machine for so many years – she was one of the lucky ones and had a machine at home – but she still had to put needles in herself every day.
“When this new machine came along which could purify the blood and get rid of the negative antibodies, I thought that we had to go for it.
“When you watch your loved one suffer you will try and do anything you can to help them.
“I’m no hero but when you watch your wife suffer and there is something that comes along that can give you hope you want to do it.
“When that option came up I jumped in with both feet. I wanted to go for it, although Mel was a bit worried.”
Melanie said: “Up until the last minute I was more concerned about Chris’ wellbeing – if something had gone wrong with him during the operation I would never have forgiven myself.
“I was still telling him up until the last moment that he could say no because I was really worried about him.
“But he said it was his wish and he wanted to do it because it would benefit both of us.”
The University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff started carrying out non-blood-group-compatible live kidney donations earlier this year – the process has successfully been used elsewhere in the world.
To ensure that the recipient’s body does not reject a kidney donated by someone with a different blood type, they must undergo treatment to remove harmful antibodies from their blood stream before the operation.
Patients are given up to five plasma exchanges before surgery and they have to take additional immune system suppressing drugs after the transplant operation.
It is hoped that the process will boost the number of live kidney donations that can be carried out every year.
Following the transplant Melanie has been able to go to the toilet properly for the first time in more than 11 years and she no longer has to severely limit the amount of fluid she can drink.
“The kidney has given me an instant new lease of life – I don’t think I’ve really come to terms with it yet.
“This is the best Christmas present I could ever have wished for.”
Chris added: “They give 10 to 11 years for a normal transplant but hopefully it should be longer because of the live donation, even though we weren’t compatible.
“If we can get another 10 to 15 years then we will be very pleased.”