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Kidney Transplant Boy, 12, Meets The Stranger Donor Who Transformed His Life

14/08/2014 16:56 | Updated 22 May 2015

A 12-year-old boy who received a kidney from a complete stranger has met the man who changed his life.

Tom Higgs was the first person at London's Great Ormond Street Hospital to receive a kidney from a living donor who wasn't a family member.

Tom met his donor, Roger Sutton, a 53-year-old GP from Portsmouth, after the pair exchanged letters through their transplant co-ordinators.

Tom has suffered from a rare type of kidney disease, atypical haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), since the age of five. It causes kidney failure together with high blood pressure.

The schoolboy, from Ruislip in Greater London, needed dialysis every night for five years.

He was put on the waiting list for a donor following somebody's death when he was eight.

Tom's mother Vicky said: "Those years on dialysis were very stressful and restrictive on our lives.

"I needed to change his dressings before attaching him to the machine and also had to give him weekly injections. It was heartbreaking knowing how much Tom disliked all of this, but we had no choice as his kidneys weren't working and we had to filter his blood."

With a family donor not possible, a kidney from an altruistic living donor was Tom's best option.

Vicky said: "Our lives have changed so much, it's hard to believe. When we heard about the match, we were really surprised that someone would be so selfless."

Roger said his decision to donate was down to 'a quiet conviction that it was the right thing to do'.

He said: "It was a chance to say thank you for all the great things that have happened in my life."

He had a rigorous assessment before the operation, both mentally and physically.

He was also tested to ensure his remaining kidney would function well.

Dr Stephen Marks, a consultant kidney specialist who leads the kidney transplant programme at Great Ormond Street, said: "We are delighted with Tom's progress since his transplant. Each year up to 36 of our patients undergo kidney transplants but Tom was the first one in our hospital to receive a kidney from a healthy member of the public who was also a complete stranger.

"The numbers of children, young people and adults on the transplant waiting list far outweigh the number of organs that are available for transplant.

"It can sometimes be difficult to find a suitable donor among living relatives and there simply are not enough people on the organ donor register willing to donate after their deaths.

"Altruistic non-directed kidney donation from individuals who are prepared to selflessly undergo a major operation opens up another vital source of organs."

Roger's consultant surgeon, Sam Dutta, said: "The number of altruistic kidney donations has been on the increase here in Portsmouth over the last few years. Since the start of this type of donation in 2007, we have seen 31 altruistic donations.

"This is one of the most selfless acts a person can do and we know that a healthy person can live a perfectly normal life with one good kidney."

The Human Tissue Authority approved 104 altruistic organ donations in 2012-13 compared with 38 the previous year.

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