Pair back campaign

Duncan Wight and Sandra White.
Duncan Wight and Sandra White.

A Deeside tree surgeon who received a kidney from his friend is backing a new organ donation campaign.

Duncan Wight, of Drumoak, underwent a three-hour operation in June 2008, after friend Sandra White donated her healthy organ, allowing Duncan to be free of dialysis.

Sandra 50, had her healthy kidney transplanted into pal and father-of-four, Duncan, who suffered from polycystic kidney disease.

Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon launched the ££590,000 campaign, urging Scots to sign up to the Organ Donor Register, in Edinburgh last week.

Deeside-based physiotherapist Sandra met Duncan around 10 years ago, through her job with the Deeside Community Rehabilitation team, based in Torphins.

Tree-surgeon Duncan, owner of Trees R Us in Drumoak, was diagnosed with the disease seven years ago and began dialysis in July 2007, when his kidneys stopped functioning enough to keep him alive.

The disorder - which sees cysts growing on the kidneys, slowly damaging their function - is hereditary. Duncan’s mother Claire went on dialysis in her early 40s before undergoing two transplants and passing away at 63.

Duncan, 48, said: “I went from having no life to having a normal life again, thanks to Sandra. Just over four years ago, I had started dialysis and there’s still people on dialysis that were there when I was in there (the renal unit at ARI).

“I was on dialysis for five hours, three times a week, and had to travel to Aberdeen and allow half an hour either side – that’s a working day for most people. It’s a real chunk of your life and some people are on for even longer than that.

“It’s such a waste that organs are getting buried because people aren’t donors, and a shame that so many people can’t get an organ donation because life is so short as it is.”

He is in favour of the opt-out system, which would make organ donation the default position, unless people chose otherwise.

“I think it’s a must,” he said. “Anyone of sound body and mind, who’s over 17, should have the option to opt out. It would make such a difference to so many people.”

He said after his sister died, her healthy organs had been donated to others.

“It was a great comfort to her partner to know that she had helped others after her death,” he said.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “Last year, there were 67 organ donors in Scotland – a rate of 13 donors per million population – up from 9.8 donors per million in 2006-7. Our rate of sign-up to the Organ Donor Register has also hit an all-time high, with 37% of the population signed up to save a life, compared with the UK average of 30%.

“However, the tragic fact is that more than 600 people in Scotland are still waiting for a life-saving transplant, and across the UK, three people die every day because they don’t get the organ they need in time.”

The campaign will run for three weeks throughout November, across TV, radio and the internet.

Kidney donor Sandra said she hoped the campaign made people consider living donations as well.

“I think everybody that believes in it should sign up, as it only takes a few minutes out of your day.

“I always had a card and I gave blood. I never signed up to the register until I got to know Duncan, as I thought the card was enough.

“I think everybody has a natural revulsion to thinking about their own death or those close to them, which is understandable. But making this decision saves the agony of the same decision for the family, if the person hasn’t made their wishes known.

“To see Duncan healthy, well and going about his normal life, being father to his kids, makes it all worthwhile for me.

“He is a remarkable person and even amazes his consultant! To see him do a job that is so physical after what he went through is very rewarding for me.”