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Andrew lives life to the full to honour his kidney donor

23 April 2021

A British Transplant Games competitor makes sure every day counts as a mark of respect to the young man who saved his life.

Andrew Dorrian’s health transformed after he had a kidney transplant. His donor was a 26-year-old who sadly died in a motorcycle accident.

Andrew Dorrian
Andrew Dorrian competing in the British Transplant Games

“I might be in the middle of work, at home doing tasks then I’ll pause, reflect, and think, I’m only here thanks to the kindness of my donor’s family in their time of tragedy.”

“I want to live my life in the best way I can to honour him and his family and their incredible gift to me.”

Hartlepool-based Andrew celebrates his eighth kidneyversary this August and says he is thankful for the research that made his transformation possible.

Giving blood saved his life

“I’m only here because of research making these incredible organ donation surgeries possible. Look how far organ transplantation has come since the 1960s.”

Incredibly, Andrew’s kidney journey began when he tried to help somebody else, by donating blood for the first time.

“The clinic staff noticed my haemoglobin was lower than expected so I was unable to donate and instead advised to go to my GP.”

His doctor found high blood pressure and ordered blood tests.

After returning home from work the following day Andrew spotted 12 missed calls from his GP surgery. After a call with the out of hours GP service I was asked to go to see my doctor as soon as possible.

“The following day I went to my GP surgery. A urine dip test to monitor protein was carried out and I was immediately referred to the emergency ward at the local hospital where I spent the next three days.”

“Bizarrely, offering to donate blood ended up saving my own life,” said Andrew, an IT consultant.

Pulled myself together

When Andrew was transferred to the care of the renal team at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough clinicians discovered he was in stage four of chronic kidney disease with just 19% kidney function remaining.

“It was a classic kidney story. I felt fine, maybe a bit tired, but nothing untoward. You just don’t know your kidneys are failing.

"I went through all the stages of grief and loss in a week then pulled myself together and focused on where I was and needed to look forward.”

A biopsy revealed a diagnosis of IgA nephropathy, where an antibody called immunoglobulin builds up in the kidneys, causing inflammation that damages the kidney tissue.

His kidney function remained stable for about a year and then he renal function suddenly deteriorated to the point where it was time for renal replacement therapy whilst the process began of hopefully joining the transplant waiting list.

Andrew then began the next phase of life with kidney failure – dialysis. After deciding on peritoneal dialysis, the first step was having a tenckhoff catheter placed. Unfortunately, this brought about some more challenges.

Andrew Dorrian in hospital
Andrew Dorrian in hospital

Strong in face of adversity

The operation to fit the catheter went to plan, but sadly at the one week check an infection was found. Due to a problem, two further operations were required to allow the process to work, but by this time Andrew needed to start dialysing immediately, so at short notice, he was given surgery for a dialysis neckline.

Haemodialysis began in August 2012 and lasted for a year. “My attitude was then, as it is now, get used to it, ride it out and stay as upbeat as I can.

“Mentally it was tough, I worked full time through it, which was my coping strategy, maybe a distraction strategy.”

Andrew Dorrian at the British Transplant Games
Andrew Dorrian at the British Transplant Games

Andrew had twilight dialysis from 6pm to midnight three times a week and worked every day in his IT job. Weekends were spent in bed recovering.

Then on Sunday 11 August 2013 the call came for his life-saving transplant.

“I was out in Durham for a few hours when my phone rang. It was the call I was waiting for. After agreeing to the kidney, I proceeded to get home in order to get my emergency bag and head up to the Institute of Transplantation at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne.

“At this point all I knew was that the kidney was being flown in and that was the best match for it, and my consultant recommended I take it. To this day that feels very humbling.”

Hospital staff are amazing

Surgery went ahead at the Freeman Hospital in the early morning and recovery was slow as the kidney didn’t ‘wake up’ fully and start functioning properly for almost a fortnight.

“I trusted all would be well and spent 25 days in hospital. The staff were utterly amazing. I can’t thank them enough.” “Since I left there I’ve never looked back.”

An initial problem of a haematoma over the top of the kidney was resolved whilst he was recovering in hospital “and has left me with a very unique scar”. Ultimately Andrew was off work for a total of three months, but by six months he was getting back to normal life.

“Knowing I’m alive because another family have lost a loved one has a massive impact.”

Andrew has since become a huge fan of the British Transplant Games, and has competed at every event since 2017, making friends from across the country. “You get to feel normal among people who understand your journey.”

He regularly takes part in cycling, race walking, archery (where he won a Bronze medal in 2019) and at his first games he won the Gold in snooker.

Can't wait to compete again

“All of us have missed the Games during the pandemic and can’t wait for 2022 when we hope it will go ahead again. It’s going to be one huge celebration!”

Meantime, Andrew hopes his kidneyversary story might encourage families to think about organ donation and inspire people to fundraise for research.

“Kidney transplants are a treatment not a cure so I would love to see research get us to a point where it is detected much earlier so people have a better prognosis.

“Also, preserving quality of life is key. At times I had a horrible time on dialysis, so would love to see improvements for patients.

“Since my transplant I feel like I have two birthdays. My actual birthday and the day of my kidney transplant, which for my friends and I is a far bigger celebration. Every year we raise a glass in honour of the incredible young man who saved my life. My donor will never be forgotten.”

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