'The whole experience has changed my outlook on life' 

When Dr Carole Angel donated a kidney to her brother, Paul Whitaker, she was able to go home just 48 hours after surgery.

Paul, a self-employed builder from Preston, was diagnosed with end-stage kidney failure in October 2001. "I was astonished to find out I had renal failure," he says. "After a series of headaches, I went to the optician because I thought I needed glasses. He tested my blood pressure and it was so high he sent me straight to my doctor."

He began dialysis in the summer of 2002, but his condition rapidly deteriorated and he was soon registered for a transplant.

His older sister Carole was working as a pathologist in Sheffield. She says: "Paul has always been a strong, tall man, but his illness began to take its toll. He lost three stone in weight."

Paul's family were worried about him. "It was worse for Mum, Dad and our brothers, as they all lived closer to him and could see the daily effect," says Carole. "I knew one of us should donate a kidney, and it just happened to be me.

"I don't see Paul very often, but we have always kept in touch by telephone. When I told him I was willing to donate a kidney, he said that he couldn't ask me to go through with it. I told him he wasn't asking; I was offering. We can be quite stubborn in our family.

"The decision to donate wasn't taken lightly. I had to go through a series of hospital tests and received a lot of psychological support. The whole process took many months. I felt a special responsibility to make sure that my health was good enough to help Paul. The worst thing was not knowing whether it would all go ahead."

Around Christmas 2002, the possibility of "keyhole" surgery was mentioned by the doctors. It was a relatively new procedure for the Manchester renal transplant unit, but offered the advantage of being much better for the donor, with a shorter hospital stay and quicker recovery time.

However, not all living kidney donors are able to have this technique performed on them. It wasn't until Carole woke up after the operation in March 2003 that she knew it had been successful.

"I had the operation on a Thursday morning and was home by lunchtime on Saturday, just 48 hours later. It was incredible. When I was 21, I had my appendix out and that was far worse than the kidney donation operation."

Paul recalls waiting to go into surgery a few hours after his sister. "I must admit, I was worried about what she might be going through. But we managed to see each other as I was being wheeled into theatre and she was being wheeled out. She was very groggy and doesn't remember much, but it gave me a great boost to see her.

"When I eventually came out of surgery, I was wheeled past the side ward where Carole was recovering and she saw me, which made her feel better."

Both Carole and Paul have fully recovered. "The whole experience has changed my outlook on life," says Carole. "Paul is always so positive about things. He always looks on the bright side and this has rubbed off on me."

Paul is back at work again, living life to the full. "I'm overwhelmingly grateful to Carole for what she did for me. She gave me back my life, and I can never thank her enough."

Page last reviewed: 14/10/2015

Next review due: 14/10/2017