'My friend gave me his kidney to save my life - I'm hugely thankful'

Calum Mitchell said he was running out of time with his failing donor kidney when his friend Ian stepped up to donate his own.

A father-of-two whose life was saved after his friend donated him a kidney is encouraging more people to consider living kidney donation.

After having a transplant from a deceased donor almost 20 years ago, 45-year-old Calum Mitchell knew his time was running out.

But Ian Cameron, 41, stepped up to offer his kidney to his friend after discovering they were a 100% match.

Calum, from Dunfermline, told STV News: “I knew that I was deep into overtime on the kidney that I had and the consultants say to you, ‘speak to your friends, speak to your family. Speak to everybody you know.’

“My sort of response to them was ‘it’s not like borrowing your favourite power tool from a friend. It’s just not like that’. How do you go about doing that?”

Calum was told by doctors that his kidney, which he received in January 2000, was beginning to fail in 2015.

When his search began to find a kidney in September 2022, friend Ian got in touch to ask if he could help by getting tested.

Results indicated the pair shared the rare B negative blood type, with further tests showing they were an identical donor match.

Calum admitted he was initially reluctant about receiving his friend’s kidney.

Ian Cameron and Calum Mitchell

He added: “There was a period of time before we got the results back and then he sent me a text saying ‘we’re basically identical twins’.

“It was sort of like mixed emotions because I was hoping this wasn’t going to work and we were going to have to have a proper conversation about it.”

Ian, from Edinburgh, said: “I was so happy when each of these steps came back because I just felt an overwhelming desire to do it.

“I just thought, ‘I want to do this thing for you which in the long-term feels like it’s cost me absolutely nothing and completely transformed your life’, which is awesome.”

The surgery was scheduled for September 2022 and was successful, with Calum saying he has been given a new lease of life.

The pair are hoping their story will inspire more people to open up the conversation around living kidney donation.

Over 400 people are currently on the waiting list for a transplant in Scotland.

Calum added: “To have a friend that’s willing to do that for you, it’s humbling.

“The amount of energy that I have now and just general well-being is amazing and life-transforming.

“So it’s a gift and one I’m obviously hugely thankful for.

“For a little while afterwards, it was a bit like, ‘how can I say thank you?’ You kind of carry that with you a bit’.

“You have to revert to a normal level of equilibrium in your friendship. So that it’s normal, I suppose.”

Ian said: “We don’t really say this very often but I think it’s fair to say, you potentially could have died if this was not done for you.

“I guess the outsized impact this has is what’s so good about it. If you ever get the chance to donate a kidney to somebody else you absolutely must do it.

“It’s a wonderful thing to do, it’s been life changing for both of us.”

Charity Living Donation Scotland say a healthy person can live a completely normal life with one working kidney.

People can donate to a loved one in need or can donate altruistically to a stranger on the waiting list who is a match.

Calum after his kidney transplant

Although Scotland has an opt out system of deceased organ and tissue donation, living kidney donation continues to play a vital part in improving transplant numbers and outcomes.

Living donation can not only lead to better outcomes for patients, but one donor can trigger a ‘chain’ of transplants for up to three people.

This is co-ordinated through the UK Living Kidney Sharing Scheme (UKLKSS), which is managed by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT).

Living Donation Scotland lead nurse Jen said: “We know from statistics that a transplant from a living donor should last a long time, obviously every transplant is different.

“As we’ve seen from Calum and Ian, it’s very difficult for the recipients sometimes to talk about living kidney donation.

“So, the more we can increase awareness for the donors to come forward and discuss living kidney donation, then the more people that we can facilitate donation and transplantation.”

Over 1,900 people in Scotland have helped others by donating a kidney since the first pioneering surgery took place in Edinburgh over 60 years ago.

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