It was a call that Jerome Govere had been waiting two-and-a-half years to get – but it never came.
He was suffering from a kidney disorder and was in desperate need of a transplant to improve his quality of life.
But after so long, Jerome had all but lost hope that a kidney would be found.
Then his wife Jacqui was tested – and her kidney turned out to be a perfect match for him.
At last it meant Zimbabwe-born Jerome would not have to spend up to four-and-a-half hours a day on a dialysis machine, three times a week.
On World Kidney Day, the couple want to share their story in the hope that more people will join the donor register – particularly those from ethnic minorities.
Jerome, 56, of Waterlooville, says: ‘Everything has changed.
‘After dialysis (a procedure which removes excess water and waste from the blood – a job usually done by the kidney) you become weak. But after the transplant I have got so much more energy again and have my life back.
‘I can travel, I can leave Portsmouth and not have to worry about where I will have dialysis.’
Since his transplant Jerome, who is a customer services assistant for Waitrose, has been studying for a degree in business and management.
He says: ‘I wouldn’t have been able to go and study if I was having dialysis because I needed to be at the hospital three times a week.
‘We have also flown back to Zimbabwe and my family could see how bubbly and very healthy I am.
‘Jacqui has done a great thing for me – she has changed my life.
‘I would encourage people to come forward and become donors because it does save lives.
‘I didn’t know my life could be like this again and it’s all because of the transplant.’
Jerome was diagnosed with polycystic kidneys soon after he married Jacqui 24 years ago.
Jacqui, 49, a nurse service manager, says: ‘Over the years his kidneys started to deteriorate and on one check-up it was revealed he would have to begin regular dialysis. He was placed on the national transplant list.
‘Black and Asian people are more susceptible to illnesses such as diabetes, kidney disease and heart disease, which may result in organ failure and therefore the need for a life-saving transplant.
‘But because of a lack of suitable organs, they can often wait up to three times as long for a transplant as the general population.
‘For a long time Jerome was on dialysis just hoping that one day he would receive that crucial call from the hospital to say they had found a match – but it never came.
‘I then made the decision to get tested and see if I could be a match.’
The transplant took place in the renal unit at the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham in February, 2009.
Both Jacqui and Jerome were monitored while they recovered.
Each year the hospital carries out around 60 to 70 of these procedures.
A revolutionary transplant which allows a donor to give their kidney to a patient with a different blood group is now also being offered at the QA.
The procedure – called the ABO incompatible kidney transplantation (ABOi) – sees patients undergo a special drug treatment for six weeks before the procedure to prepare their bodies.
These drugs reduce the number of a particular type of white blood cells that would evolve to produce antibodies, which could harm the new kidney.
Specialist surgeons at the QA have highlighted that more people need to sign the organ donor register, but especially those from ethnic minorities.
Renal consultant Sam Dutta says: ‘The black and ethnic minority community is under-represented on the organ donor register nationally.
‘This disadvantages patients from these communities as it often results in longer waits for a transplant.
‘It is so important for people to put themselves forward as potential donors by registering with the organ donor register and discussing it with friends and family.’
In the Portsmouth area there are 258 people on the kidney waiting list – of those 24, or 9.3 per cent, are from an ethnic minority group.
Donors can be from either people signing the register giving permission for their organs to be donated after death, or by someone living.
Firefighter Stuart Vince, of Cosham fire station, didn’t hesitate to donate his kidney to family friend Mike Paxman, 20, last June.
Mike, 20, of Soberton, started developing kidney problems when he was five years old.
On average people can wait up to two years to find a match and, sadly for Mike, family members were not compatible.
Stuart proved to be a match and donated his kidney.
Now he wants to raise awareness that more people should sign on the donor register list – and not just for kidneys.
He says: ‘To put it simply, it changes lives on a daily basis. It’s a small thing to sign up for, but it’s a big deal for the person that gets any organ.
‘Once you have passed away, your organs can potentially save five other lives.’
Stuart adds: ‘Most people will take an organ, but don’t think about being on the register.
‘When people pass away it’s quite often not the time to ask family or friends if they want the organs to be put on a list.
‘But if people can make this decision prior to that, then it’s a great help.
‘I know it’s not for everyone – certainly religious beliefs come into it. But it can make such a huge difference.’
· To find out more about organ and blood donation, go to nhsbt.nhs.uk.
SUPPORT FOR PARIENTS
The West Kidney Patients’ Association offers support to kidney transplant patients, donors and their families.
The group was formed in 1976 to offer support and information for kidney patients at a time when not much information was available.
The patient support group can offer financial help for people who have had a transplant.
It also raises money to buy vital equipment for hospitals in the area.
To find out more about the group, call chairman David Macdonald on 01256 325714.
WORLD KIDNEY DAY
World Kidney Day was founded in 2006 to unite different organisations and raise awareness of kidney disorders.
The UK has been part of it since 2007 and The Kidney Alliance co-ordinates most of the national activity.
The alliance is made up of patients and healthcare professionals, who work together to promote awareness of kidney health.
It gives people advice and information on how to recognise the signs of kidney problems and what help and treatment is out there for sufferers and their families.
THE TRANSPLANT PROCESS
The process, from needing a transplant to receiving a kidney, can be a lengthy one.
It can be complex and involves a team of specialist medical professionals and a kidney match.
As long as a patient is healthy, other than their kidney problem, they are placed on the organ donor waiting list.
Once a match is found, the patient needs to get to a hospital as soon as possible with their medication.
The patient needs to stop eating and drinking as the stomach needs to be empty before the operation begins.
Once admitted, the patient will undergo a range of tests such as blood tests, a physical examination and X-rays.
If results are to the consultant’s satisfaction, and the kidney is healthy, then the patient is put under general anaesthetic and the surgery takes place.
After the surgery, the patient will be taken to the intensive care unit where they will be monitored by doctors until the anaesthetic wears off.
In some situations, dialysis may still be used while the recipient’s body adjusts to the new kidney.
Patients are then monitored before they can go home.
Old kidneys can be used to help research into kidney disease.