Best friends’ kidney transplant success

Adrienne Rea (left) donated her kidney to her friend Lorraine Harper. INLT 50-050-PSB
Adrienne Rea (left) donated her kidney to her friend Lorraine Harper. INLT 50-050-PSB

A former kidney disease sufferer from Cairncastle says she is enjoying a “whole new life” after receiving a kidney from a close friend.

Local woman Lorraine Harper suffered from hereditary polycystic kidney disease, an illness which caused her mother’s death.

After her first donated kidney began to fail, she spent a decade on dialysis, enduring four hours linked up to a dialysis machine for three nights every week.

She was also forced to survive on a restricted diet and liquid intake, until her close friend Adrienne Rea offered her the ultimate gift of a kidney.

Adrienne told The Times: “Lorraine had a kidney transplant in 1993 which worked for seven years, but in the last 10 years I realised she was ill again and her kidney was failing.

“The hospital said that there was a 10 per cent chance that she would find a match, so she faced the prospect of being on dialysis for the rest of her life.

“Then, five years ago, I saw her really ill with an infection and I realised that this was life or death for Lorraine, so I decided to come forward.”

Despite the fact the women shared a blood group, the transplant was unable to go ahead as the women had different tissue types and Lorraine had a high level of antibodies after her first transplant, increasing the risk of rejection.

However, two years ago advancements in medicine meant that Lorraine’s case was reviewed. Adrienne continued: “They had a new treatment called plasma exchange at Guy’s Hospital in London which they could use to reduce Lorraine’s antibodies so the body wouldn’t reject the donor organ. However, since there was a high risk of infection and Adrienne didn’t want to be away from home for a month they discarded it.

“Then, a year ago the kidney transplant co-ordinator at the City Hospital Dr Courtney told us they could do the procedure there.

“We weren’t an exact match so they gave it an 80 per cent chance of success.”

As the kidney donor, Adrienne had to prepare herself psychologically for the fact that her donated kidney might be rejected.

She says that it was the women’s deep faith which helped them surmount these obstacles. Adrienne continued: “We came at it from a Christian perspective and Dr Courtney, who is also a Christian, was praying with us too. Everything fell into place and doors opened that were closed five years previously. It was a miracle.”

After three plasma exchange sessions Lorraine’s antibody levels decreased enough for surgery to go ahead on November 7. After five weeks, the transplant continues to be a success and Lorraine says that she has been given a new lease of life.

She told The Times: “It’s amazing, words can’t describe it, I am overwhelmed at what Adrienne did for me.

“Doors kept opening and there were no hiccups. We felt that the Lord had opened those doors and we had to walk through them. It was God’s plan.”

Lorraine says she has already noticed an “amazing difference” to her quality of life, while Adrienne has not suffered any ill effects. She explained: “I have more energy and feel a lot better in myself. It’s still early days and I have to go up twice a week for check-ups but I have much more freedom. I’m not tied to a machine. I was never able to go on holiday before so this has opened up a whole new life for me. When I was on dialysis my fluid intake was limited and I couldn’t eat certain foods, now I can go out to a restaurant.”

Paying tribute to her friend’s generosity, Lorraine commented: “We are like sisters and we have an unbelievable bond. It is life-changing. I would urge people to get on the organ donation register.”