Man born with one kidney is campaigning to keep organ donor register open during pandemic

A man born with only one kidney is  campaigning for the national organ donation register to remain fully active during the second wave of the  pandemic to give people waiting for a transplant a "ray of hope."
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Lifelong Leeds United fan Steven Harrison, 37, is on daily kidney dialysis at home as he waits to be called for a transplant operation at St James's Hospital in Leeds.

His wife Donna, 41, was hoping to be a live kidney donor for her husband, but the couple's hopes were dashed in February when final tests revealed she too had kidney disease as a date was due to be set for the transplant operation at St James's.

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Mr Harrison's name was placed on the national waiting list for a kidney in February.

Steven Harrison pictured with wife Donna.

Photo: Tony JohnsonSteven Harrison pictured with wife Donna.

Photo: Tony Johnson
Steven Harrison pictured with wife Donna. Photo: Tony Johnson

The couple, who have been shielding since March, faced a further setback when Covid hit and all transplant operations were suspended at St James's and Mr Harrison's name was taken off the transplant list.

Mr Harrison's name went back on the transplant list in May and the couple are now campaigning for the register to stay open during the second wave of the pandemic.

Mr Harrison did not discover he only had one kidney until after undergoing a health review with his GP in 2010.

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He was told he had high blood pressure and underwent an ultrasound test in hospital, which revealed he only had one kidney, which was only functioning at 29 per cent of full capacity.

Donna and Steven Harrison pictured on a hiking tripDonna and Steven Harrison pictured on a hiking trip
Donna and Steven Harrison pictured on a hiking trip

The kidney function worsened over the years until it was down to 16 per cent in 2019.

Mr Harrison started on peritoneal dialysis at home twice a day in July.

Mrs Harrison said she is in the early stages of kidney disease, which was discovered during tests for her to become a live donor.

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She said: "I felt like I had let my husband down because I was his only hope at that stage."

The couple have not let kidney disease stop them enjoying their hobby of hiking.

Since Mr Harrison's diagnosis in 2010, they have climbed more than 150 mountains including Ben Nevis, Snowdon and Scafell Pike.

Mrs Harrison said: "Even though you are on dialysis, your life desn't have to stop."

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She added: "We had a ray of hope and that was taken away from us when the transplant unit suspended all transplants at St James's."

"Our main concern now is that we are in the second wave and there is talk of things getting postponed again."

Mrs Harrison said it was "absolute hell" In February when the couple were told she was not able to be a live donor.

She said: "Whilst he is on the transplant list there is hope, but as soon as they close these centres, that hope is taken away."

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John Forsythe, medical director for organ donation and transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “We know this remains a worrying time for anyone waiting for an organ transplant.

"With a great team effort across the NHS, deceased organ donation and transplant activity continued for the most urgent patients during the first wave of Covid-19 and returned to pre-Covid levels in the summer, with all transplant centres reopening.

“Recently we have seen a slight dip in the number of organ donors and transplants, which is to be expected with the recent increase in Covid-19 cases and stress on the whole NHS, but especially in areas of the UK with high Covid-19 numbers.

"We have plans in place, with our hospital colleagues, to continue with deceased organ donation and transplant activity as much as possible.

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“We have learnt a lot from the first wave and transplants continue to be a priority across the NHS, with safety remaining paramount.

“During the pandemic we have seen incredible family support for organ donation and life-saving transplants.

"This is testament to the strong foundation of altruism, and support for donation, across the UK.

"We hope to see this continue, particularly now the law around organ donation has changed in England, and with the impending law change in Scotland.”

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Barnsley Labour MP Dan Jarvis was instrumental in changing the law on organ donation in England through the passage of the Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Act 2019.

It introduced an opt-out system of consent for organ donation.

Mr Jarvis said: “My heart goes out to Donna and Steven Harrison – I know how worrying and stressful their current situation is.

“I wholeheartedly agree that the National Organ Donation Register should remain open throughout the second wave of Covid to save lives and give hope to the thousands of patients currently on organ donor waiting lists.

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“I recently raised the issue of organ donation during the pandemic with the Health Secretary in Parliament, and I will continue to campaign to ensure that those patients who need an organ transplant get the life-saving operation they desperately need.”

Click here for more information on becoming a living organ donor.