A Metropolitan police officer today told how he gave the gift of life to his sister just in time for Christmas.
Tristan Hunter, 32, donated a kidney to sibling Amy Hennessey, 38 – with the organ swap taking place four months before he is due to become a father for the first time.
He agreed to become a “live donor” after seeing how his primary teacher sister was growing increasingly unwell, with her kidneys down to 6-8 per cent effectiveness. Her kidneys were damaged in childhood and she was on the verge of requiring dialysis.
Mr Hunter, a CID officer, told the Standard: “I had a bit of time to think about it, but once I made my mind up I was sure. It was after I tested positive [as a matching donor] and no-one else was coming forward for Amy. It wasn’t like a really easy decision to make but I’m really glad I have done it now.”
Their story is being told today by the Royal Free hospital, Hampstead, when it posts details on Twitter of the nine-hour double operation in “real time”.
The operation took place last month and both brother and sister are recovering well. They agreed to tell their story to raise awareness of the shortage of organ donors as part of the #YesIDonate campaign.
Mr Hunter, from Swanley, Kent, and his wife Jenny are expecting their first child in March. The operation was brought forward to fit in with his availability. He is due to return to work in the New Year, six weeks after the operation.
“I didn’t want to be really ill when she was seven months’ pregnant,” he said. “The timing was really important to me. She is due in March. If I’m better by Christmas, that is fine by me.
“It’s all gone as well as could be expected so the whole family is really pleased. We can all enjoy a great Christmas together.”
Mrs Hennessey, from Enfield, said she expected a Christmas reunion at their parents’ home in Coventry to be “quite emotional”.
She said: “I was just completely overwhelmed. I can’t believe he would do it. It was just an amazing thing. He has given me a new lease of life. I am going to have to get him something really special for Christmas in return.”
Blood and DNA tests found Mr Hunter to be a 100 per cent match for his sister. An aunt also offered to donate a kidney but she was only a 50 per cent match.
Mrs Hennessey suffered reflux as a baby, which badly damaged her kidneys. Her twin boys Freddie and Alfie, now 10, had to be born at 29 weeks when she suffered renal failure.
Consultant transplant surgeon Colin Forman used a keyhole procedure to remove Mr Hunter’s kidney. The organ was taken out via an incision under the tummy button 90 minutes later.
It was then cleaned and prepared on ice by fellow consultant transplant surgeon Bimbi Fernando. He began operating on Mrs Hennessey an hour later. The kidney was “reanimated” with her blood after two hours and the procedure was completed in under four hours.
The Royal Free performs about 120 kidney transplants a year. Mr Fernando said: “We are desperately short of organ donors. Three people per day are dying on the UK transplant list, of all kinds of organ failure. It’s essential we open our donor pool, for both deceased donors as well as live donors.
“If you know someone who needs an organ… I would urge you to think about being an organ donor. It will have an impact not only on the recipient’s life but, if you are close to them, it will also impact on your life as well positively.”