Paul and Rebecca

A man whose life was saved by a friend’s selfless gesture has highlighted the importance of living kidney donation.

Paul Duncan, 30, spoke of how friend Rebecca Morrice, 30, gave him a future after unexpected kidney failure put his life on hold.

Paul, who has cystic fibrosis, at one point feared a transplant wouldn’t be possible, as the kidney failure reduced his lung function substantially, meaning there were increased risks involved in the surgery.

However, thanks to the actions of Rebecca and the work of Paul’s medical team, the transplant went ahead on 20 December 2017, with Paul being discharged on the 01 January 2018, ready to start his new life.

Living kidney donation rates in Scotland are currently increasing year on year, with the number of living donors in Scotland rising from 86 in 2016/17 to 95 in 2017/18.

A healthy person can lead a completely normal life with one working kidney, and over the last ten years over 500 people in Scotland have become living kidney donors.

A successful kidney transplant from a living donor is the best treatment option for people with end-stage kidney disease.  There are currently over 400 people waiting for a kidney transplant in Scotland.

Paul, from Torphins, Aberdeenshire was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy in 2006 aged 18, and had to start dialysis in June 2016 when his kidney function rapidly declined – a period that he described as the worst of his life.

Struggling on dialysis and unsure whether a transplant would be possible, Paul had to give up work and ensure he kept himself as fit as possible to increase the chances of surgery successful if it went ahead.

When doctors agreed Paul could be listed for transplant, six people came forward to get tested as potential donors, one of which was Rebecca, a former girlfriend who he met through work in 2010.

Paul said:

“My cystic fibrosis had never caused me many issues, so the kidney failure was really hard to deal with.  I went from being fit and active, to struggling to get up the stairs to my flat and having no quality of life.

“There were questions over the transplant, because I might need a lung transplant later in life, and the deterioration in my lung function meant there were a lot of complications and risks.  But I knew a kidney transplant was my only chance.

“It’s quite overwhelming having all these people coming forward wanting to help.  When Rebecca was a match, I was concerned about her doing this huge thing for me.  Through both worry for her, and also in case the risks involved in the surgery meant the kidney would be wasted.”

Rebecca’s resolve to help stayed strong, and the pair, accompanied by parents, travelled together to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh where the successful transplant went ahead. 

Rebecca, from Aberdeen who works a field service engineer for an oil company, said:

“I wasn’t fully aware of how severe Paul’s condition was until I visited him in hospital.  I knew I wanted to get tested from that moment on, and that never wavered. One of my great friends was in need, and I kept thinking what if it was one of my family.  For that reason, it was a no brainer and probably one of the easiest decisions I ever made.

“There were a lot of tests and discussions around the fact that the surgery might not be successful for Paul.  But I wanted to try, and if the kidney didn’t take then so be it. 

“Luckily, things went to plan. Returning to my job offshore was hard as I hadn’t been able to keep my fitness levels up, but things soon returned to normal.  It seems hard to believe now that we were ever in that situation. Apart from the tiny scar on my stomach it’s like it never happened.”

Paul, who is back at the gym and hopes to start back at work in the summer as a personal trainer, added:

“Rebecca saved my life and I can’t put into words what it is she’s done for me.  Nothing I could ever do in the rest of my lifetime could repay her enough.  She was so laid back through the whole process, nothing phased her at all which helped me through it.  What she did for me, and my family, was quite simply amazing.”


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