WHEN Nicole Newman signed up to become an organ donor, she had no idea she would become best friends with the woman who received her kidney.
But just weeks after the operation in May the 52-year-old started contacting the recipient of her kidney Hua Yu and since then, the pair see each other on a weekly basis.
Hua, from Old Portsmouth, needed a kidney after suffering with polycystic kidney disease for most of her life.
Earlier this year she was told a match had been found for her transplant and she underwent a life-changing operation.
The pair are now sharing their stories to encourage people to sign up to the organ register.
Nicole, from Lee-on-the-Solent, said: ‘I started thinking about becoming a donor in 2007 after my husband died from malignant melanoma.
We certainly talk a couple of times a week and I cannot imagine life without herNicole Newman
‘He wanted to donate his organs but couldn’t. It wasn’t until last year that I decided to sign up and once I commit myself to something there is no going back.
‘I met Jenny Frank, my live donor co-ordinator at Queen Alexandra Hospital, and before I knew it I was deemed healthy enough and ready enough to donate.’
When people sign up to become donors, they remain anonymous so Hua, 49, had no information on the person who had made her life so much better.
The University of Portsmouth graduate travelled from China to the UK to study a PHD in education but her kidneys were failing.
She suffered chronic headaches, swollen ankles, and tiredness.
But despite describing herself as feeling ‘half-dead’, Hua was not keen on the idea of having a kidney from a living person.
She said: ‘What if something happened to them? I didn’t think I could live with the guilt. I didn’t like the feeling that maybe someone would suffer because of me. I know that is strange.’
But when a kidney became available from a living donor, Ms Frank who was Hua’s live donor co-ordinator as well, reassured her and said the kidney would be given to someone else regardless.
So in May, Hua underwent surgery and could not believe the difference she felt as soon as she woke up.
She added: ‘It sounds odd because I was on all kinds of medication but as soon as I woke up, my headache was gone.
‘I started to cry. I could not believe how much better I felt.’
To show her appreciation to her donor, Hua wrote a letter and asked Ms Frank to pass it on.
Two weeks later, Nicole replied introducing herself and asking Hua to get in touch.
The two decided to meet at QA Hospital and since then have become close friends, meeting each others families and talking all the time.
Nicole also attended Hua’s graduation ceremony earlier this year.
Nicole said: ‘Normally we see each other once a week if we can. ‘We certainly talk a couple of times a week and I cannot imagine life without her.’
Hua added: ‘We have been through so much.’
How to register to be a donor
THERE are two types of organ donations that people can sign up to — to donate after they die or while they are living.
Most organs can be donated by deceased donors while living donors can donate their kidneys and liver.
When people sign up to the organ donor register in the UK they receive a donor card which most people keep on them.
According to the organ donation NHS website, on average around three people die every day waiting for a suitable organ.
Around 6,500 people across the UK are waiting for an organ transplant and only around 5,000 people each year die in circumstances where they can donate their organs.
The NHS organ donation website has a range of information on how to register, what happens when you do, the different types of transplants, restrictions and the difference it can make.
It also has patient stories on people who have given an organ and been a recipient.
For more information or to register visit call 0300 123 23 23 or visit organdonation.nhs.uk.