Southsea man is called a ‘hero’ after ‘giving the gift of life’ by selflessly donating a kidney to help his ill friend

A MAN who suffered with kidney disease for decades says his hero friend has given him his life back by becoming a living donor.

Tuesday, 9th November 2021, 4:55 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th November 2021, 7:05 am

Gareth Tyson Hoole, from Southsea, selflessly donated a kidney to help his poorly pal, 51-year-old Jeremy Penny.

Despite having to wait years for the right time to make the donation, the friends are recovering well from successful operations in September.

Jeremy, a solicitor for Hampshire County Council, said: ‘I feel great – amazing. It’s given me my life back.’

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Kidney donor Gareth Hoole (37) and recipient Jeremy Penny (51). Picture: Mike Cooter (291021)

Gareth, 37, decided to become a living kidney donor when he saw how ill his friend was becoming because of polycystic kidney disease. The friends met at a pub about five years ago.

Gareth, who is self-employed, said: ‘I could see the deterioration with Jeremy going through the dialysis over the years. I hadn’t realised how far down the line he was.’

Jeremy has dealt with polycystic kidney disease for most of his adult life. As it is a genetic disorder, he has seen other family members suffer with the same disease. For years before his transplant Jeremy had to have dialysis about four times a week, sometimes taking up to five hours.

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Kidney donor Gareth Hoole (37) with the card he received from the medical staff at QA. Picture: Mike Cooter (291021)

Both kidneys, which were covered in growing cysts, had swollen to about 15 times their usual weight. Jeremy’s first kidney was removed in January 2020, the second was taken out in March this year.

He says: ‘I was struggling with restless leg syndrome. My legs wouldn’t stop moving. I wasn’t getting much sleep at night. I was dehydrated, lightheaded, worn out.’

But Jeremy adds he is friends with ‘some incredible people’ and Gareth was not the only one to offer help. About eight friends were tested as possible donors. Three made the final cut.

Although Gareth was the closest match, their kidneys were not a perfect match, so Gareth instead donated his kidney through the Kidney Donor Scheme. This means that as well as transforming his friend’s life, two other recipients were able to have lifesaving kidney donations.

A hug for kidney donor Gareth Hoole (37) from recipient Jeremy Penny (51). Picture: Mike Cooter (291021)

Gareth was ‘100 per cent convinced’ from the beginning he was going to donate a kidney to help his friend.

Jeremy said: ‘Gareth has made this possible. He never waivered. It gave me so much confidence.’

The transplant took place on September 22, with Gareth staying in hospital for six days and Jeremy for seven. Recovery has not been a smooth process for Jeremy. He says he has ‘some major hurdles to get through’ after his operation.

He says: ‘It was a tough week, talking about infections and rejections.’ However, he began to pick up after passing a ‘huge’ blood clot.

Gareth Hoole (37) chatting with Jeremy Penny (51), to whom he donated one of his kidneys. Picture: Mike Cooter (291021)

‘We’d gone from talking about a biopsy to saying that I should go home,’ Jeremy says. ‘This kidney is working, it’s settling. It’s worlds apart from where I was. I can sleep, no restless leg issues. I feel normal again, my eyes are clear white.’

Jeremy is full of praise for the NHS staff who cared for him throughout his illness and operations.

He says: ‘The staff at QA are incredible. Going through that transplant process, that care is second to none – from health assistants to the surgeons, the kindness and dedication that they showed.’

Gareth, who is also a blood donor, says he is having to learn to get used to praise from people for his selfless deed, as he ‘didn’t do it for a pat on the back’. Rather, he is a huge advocate for donation, and says: ‘Donate what you don’t need.’

He adds: ‘It started with my uncle, who had lymphoma. When he was getting tested for the marrow, I saw the benefits of being a donor. It’s possible he might still be here if there had been a donor.’

Jeremy says: ‘There are an awful lot of patients out there who need kidney transplants. It’s giving the gift of life.

‘The feelgood factor that being an altruistic donor gives is incredible. I can lead now a normal life, which is only possible because Gareth has given me a kidney.’

As a dad of one, Jeremy likes to ‘lead by example’ by approaching life with a positive mindset. He keeps active by playing football and cricket, and also likes running and rollerskating.

The pair are both members of the Portsmouth Skating Group, and Gareth remembers a group of skaters rolling up to his hospital window at QA to wave as he recovered from the operation. He says: ‘The skate group has been phenomenal. The support, the messages from all of them. They’ve become my family. Having a community around you is so important.’

Jeremy agrees: ‘My friends kept me on the straight and narrow. I feel extremely lucky to have these people around me.’

Joaquin Jimenez, founder and coordinator of the Portsmouth Skating Group, says: ‘Everyone in the group loves Gareth because you can see how good a person he is by just seeing him around. But when I talked with him and shared the selfless act he was planning to do, the whole group was full of respect and admiration for him.

‘In the skating community we have nicknames we print on our hoodies or T-shirts. He definitely deserves the name ‘Hero’.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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