Paul McVeigh

Glasgow father of two shares his experience of donating one of his kidneys to a stranger

Northern Ireland native Paul McVeigh, 41, is a retired MMA (mixed martial arts) professional who now runs a gym where he coaches the sport. His kidney was donated into the UK Living Kidney Sharing Scheme (UKLKSS) in early 2023, sparking a chain of three transplants. The thought of altruistic donation had been on his mind for a while after reading about it, however it was a conversation with his wife Maeve, a doctor, which cemented his decision.

Paul said:

“I was speaking to my wife about one of my grandparents who had been on dialysis, and she told me about patients she had treated who had renal failure, its impact on their lives, and the difference that kidney transplants can make. It really got me thinking about how I could change someone’s life in this way.

“There were loads of reasons that I wanted to do it. I’d worked professionally in sports for many years and I’ve been lucky enough to remain in good health my whole life. I was in a good place to donate physically and I wanted to pay forward my good fortune. My job also allowed me to take time off to do it. I pulled together a list of pros and cons on my phone which I continued adding to. After a year, the pros significantly outweighed the cons. Overall, it felt like a demonstrably good action – something that would make my children proud and which fell in line with the type of person I aspire to be.

“I went online and registered my interest with NHS Blood and Transplant, which led to a series of tests to find out if I could be an altruistic donor. My coordinator was brilliant – she made it really easy and kept me informed and reassured throughout. At the final stages, I knew I would be really disappointed if there was any reason that I couldn’t donate, so when I got confirmation that everything had been approved, I was really relieved and excited.”

Paul was entered into the UKLKSS, triggering a chain of three matches.

“Going into my surgery, it didn’t feel like too big a deal, I don’t want it to seem like what I did was exceptional - I just went into surgery for a few hours. It’s the talent and skill of the surgeons, coordinators and other NHS staff that’s remarkable.

“Everything went to plan with my surgery and I was up and walking a couple of days later. Within a couple of weeks I felt pretty normal, though I continued to take it easy. After three months I returned to my job coaching mixed martial arts, which involves lifting weights and taking part in jujitsu. Being down one kidney has had no impact on my life whatsoever. I’m just as healthy as I was before, though donating my kidney has encouraged me to take better care of myself.

“A few months after my donation, I got a letter from the individual who received my kidney to thank me for my donation. I learned it was a man around my age, and it does make me proud knowing that I’ve been able to change his life like this. It’s something that I’ll always be able to look back on.

“It’s not a decision to be taken lightly, but for anyone considering altruistic donation, I’d stress how glad I am that I did it. I’m living my life exactly the same way now that I would have done without donating, but I’ve been able to change the lives of three other people.”

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