Harpenden man receives kidney same day his wife donates one

Elaine Thomas-Jefferies & Simon Cook

Elaine Thomas-Jefferies & Simon Cook - Credit: Archant

The importance of kidney donation has struck home with one family, after they donated and received a life-changing organ in the same day – but not to each other.

Simon Cook, 56, of Sun Lane in Harpenden, was hospitalised with kidney failure last Christmas after contracting pneumonia.

Medical tests revealed there was nobody in his family who was a suitable match, but this didn’t stop wife Elaine Thomas-Jefferies donating her own kidney regardless.

She said: “I couldn’t have been further away from a match for Simon and neither was my son.

“My daughter was insistent on donating but I said ‘not a chance’ as it could affect her fertility with her being only 19.”

During the seven months of her husband’s painstaking dialysis, Elaine was determined to help others in need, and decided to donate her kidney to a complete stranger.

The selfless move saw Elaine become a rare altruistic donor - only one of 340 people to donate to a stranger since 2007.

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“When I found out that so few people had donated, I was absolutely shocked! I honestly thought it would be more common. We’re so lucky that someone donated to Simon.”

Elaine’s decision to donate her own kidney sped up the process for Simon, and eventually she went into surgery on the same day Simon received his kidney replacement from another altruistic donor.

Both operations were successful, and Simon had a fully functioning kidney within two hours of the operation.

Elaine said: “I have been very fortunate; I have a beautiful life, a wonderful husband and two lovely children.

“I would say that life is good, and it isn’t all about receiving, sometimes you have got to give back.”

The waiting list for a kidney transplant is a lengthy three years on average, and not all patients are as lucky as Simon.

Elaine added: “The dialysis is soul destroying, every week – Monday, Wednesday and Friday – for four hours a day. You can’t lead a normal life; dialysis is both debilitating and disruptive to all the family.”

Two months after his operation Simon is finally back to full health and “delighted to have his life back”, Elaine said.

“It is important that we create awareness of the suffering caused renal failure to highlight the benefits of altruistic donations,” she added.

A spokesman for NHS Blood and Transplant said: “Age isn’t a barrier to being an organ or tissue donor and neither are most medical conditions. People in their 70s and 80s have become donors and saved many lives.”