A grandad has become Sheffield’s first altruistic organ donor - by giving away a kidney to help transform the life of a complete stranger, writes Ellen Beardmore.
Inspirational John Carlisle was motivated to make the gesture after two men he knew died of kidney failure.
The 70-year-old hopes his story will encourage other people to do the same thing during National Transplant Week, as new figures show 212 people in South Yorkshire are waiting for their own life-changing operations.
Married father-of-three John, speaking as part of The Star’s Gift of Life campaign to recruit 12,000 organ donors, said: “Two very good men I knew both died before anything could be done, and I thought it was a terrible waste.
“I don’t wish to know who my kidney went to - and that’s the thing about altruistic donation. My kidney just goes to somebody who needs it and hopefully stops them needing dialysis so they can live a normal life.
“What I do know is that it ‘took’ straight away. I’m very pleased and grateful I was healthy enough to be able to do it. I had two kidneys and I could live with one - it just seemed the ideal time to give somebody their life back.
“This isn’t self aggrandisement. I want people to know that, at my age in particular, this is completely possible.”
The grandfather-of-three, who immigrated to the UK from Zambia 40 years ago, said another motivation was to give something back to the NHS.
“I came here 40 years ago from Zambia and it’s a country that has been very good to me, particularly the NHS, so I am a great fan of the NHS,” he said.
Semi-retired John, who used to run a Sheffield-based consultancy firm and is now a visiting professor at Sheffield Business School, underwent extensive tests and checks after deciding to become a donor, to make sure he was healthy enough for the operation.
He joked he had benefited from the best health check of his life and ‘would do it again’ if he could.
Surgeons removed his kidney at the Northern General Hospital - a specialist centre for kidney transplants - in May.
“I had the operation six weeks ago, and this week I walked to town from my home in the heat and it was fine,” said John, of Dover Road, Ecclesall.
“I am absolutely normal and that is because I was cared for and taken through a really careful process by the great team at the Northern General.
“I was scared about going under the knife, but the donor team were so informative and caring.
“You just feel you are given this one opportunity to make a huge difference in somebody’s life.
“Not many of us are given the chance to do something as tremendous as this in our lifetime.”
Consultant transplant surgeon Badri Shrestha, who carried out John’s two-hour operation, said it had been a ‘privilege’.
He added: “The kidney went to Leicester where it was given to a very well-deserving lady and worked straight away.
“When I told John he was in tears, he was so pleased, he was very happy he had made a difference.
“It is so exciting to have Sheffield’s first altruistic organ donor, we feel there will be many more people that will come forward now.
“John is a very important person to convey the message that the procedure is very safe and one can get back to normal life within six weeks.”