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Meet the Hartlepool child who’s named her new kidney George

19 September 2023

A Hartlepool family are reflecting on the gift of life that has made an enormous difference to their lives this Organ Donation Week.  

Gavin Lancaster and his wife Becky were left devastated when their daughter Poppy’s first kidney transplant failed, but a second attempt in May has left the 5-year-old with a new lease of life.    

The Lancaster family with dad Gavin, mum Becky and daughter Poppy
Poppy with dad Gavin and mum Becky

Shock kidney disease diagnosis

Poppy, who has an identical twin sister, Violet, wasn’t diagnosed with kidney disease until she was 18 months old. The news came as a huge shock to Gavin and Becky, who had been unaware their daughter was unwell. 

“The GP had sent Poppy for allergy tests. They happened to put a kidney function test in with her bloods and once the results came in, a panicked-sounding doctor at North Tees Hospital in Stockton called, saying we needed to bring Poppy in immediately,” recalls Gavin. “We were told she had kidney problems, and, in a moment, our whole world turned upside down. Unbeknownst to us, she’d been born with kidneys that hadn’t formed properly and were only a quarter of the size they should be. The doctors were amazed she’d survived.”  

Transplant news

Poppy initially received peritoneal dialysis for ten hours a night, six nights a week. The gravity of the situation started to sink in with Gavin and Becky as they came to terms with the fact that she would eventually need a kidney transplant. 

While her first transplant wasn’t working well, Poppy was allowed home on 31 March 2021 and, with 9 per cent kidney function, she enjoyed a period of 14 months off dialysis. She then had to resume dialysis treatment in May 2022, but there was good news exactly 12 months later.  

“On 3 May this year, the fourth anniversary of her diagnosis, we got the call saying they’d found a match,” recalls Gavin. “That day, Poppy walked into the hospital herself, wearing her Kidney Research UK t-shirt and pulling her little purple suitcase. She had the transplant on the 4th and came home on the 16th. The consultant said it was the fastest she’d ever sent a patient home.” 

“I’ve no idea why,” laughs Gavin, who in addition to the twins has two other children – daughter Gabrielle, 17, and son Higham, 11. “When I asked her, she just said, ‘Because it’s his name, Dad!’ She’s so funny.” 

Sisters wearing the same white and pink kidney warrior t-shirts
Twin sisters, Violet and Poppy Lancaster

Recovering well post transplant

Poppy has recovered well and despite previously developing at a slower rate to her twin sister, she’s catching up fast.  

“There’s only a 10cm difference in height between her and Violet now and a 5kg difference in weight,” says Gavin. “Poppy’s eating so well now, whereas she never properly ate before. It’s just beautiful to see. She’s also got ten times more energy than she used to – she never stops. We’re all absolutely knackered, but we wouldn't have it any other way. She had 7% kidney function on the day of her transplant, now she’s got 97% so ‘George’ has kick-started her properly existing.” 

Poppy in hospital bed after her kidney transplant
Poppy recovering in hospital following her transplant

Passionate about supporting research

Throughout Poppy’s transplant journey, Gavin has been a passionate supporter of charity Kidney Research UK. 

“We have our own Go Fund me page for #teampoppy and every week, whatever’s been donated gets sent to the charity,” he says. “For years, I’ve found Kidney Research UK to be such a support, so of course I want to give back. Even my mobile disco and my car have the charity’s logo on them.” 

Emma Ronan-Peate, community relationship manager at Kidney Research UK said: “Organ donation really is a gift that can have such a huge impact on the lives of patients and their families. Without it, children like Poppy would be stuck on dialysis with no hope of living their lives to the full. With more research to make transplantation more accessible and last longer for all patients, more children like Poppy can have their very own George.” 

Gavin is understandably a vocal supporter of Organ Donation Week. 

“Thanks to Poppy’s organ donor, she already has a completely different and better life – and because of that, so do the rest of the family,” he says. “I can’t say how amazing organ donation is – it is just the gift of life and, for most, liberty. So to all organ donors, thank you.” 

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