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Jeanette Donated Kidney to Save Her Distant Cousin

NHS Helped Me To Give The Gift Of Life
"'Oh, I'll give you a kidney' because it had been going through my mind. "
by Diana Prince
Plymouth Herald - 08/07/2008

Former nurse Jeanette Hipsey saved her distant cousin's life with a kidney donation - after they met in researching their family tree.
Jeanette, 67, of St Budeaux, and 69-year-old Kathy Skinner spoke to The Herald one year after the transplant which changed both their lives. They told their story to raise awareness of organ donation during National Transplant Week, which rums from July 6th to 13th.
"Jeanette has saved my life and I think she's wonderful," said Kathy, in tears. "Without her, I'd have been on a dialysis machine today. It takes over your life."
Kathy said she knew people who had died while on the waiting list for a kidney transplant.
The operation - on June 19th last year - gave her another 20 years of life without dialysis, but she says she plans to live to 100.
More than 6,700 kidney patients are waiting for a transplant in the UK. Average wait is two years.
Jeanette said: "I never had any doubts about donating my kidney, and I'm overwhelmed I had the opportunity to db it through the NHS. I feel I've achieved some¬thing wonderful. Kathy 'tells me I should be proud."
Grandmother-of-two Kathy lives with husband Ralph in Hadleigh, Essex, but last week travelled to Plymouth to visit her relative.
Jeanette said: "It all started when I received a call from an Edwin Hipsey from Canada, who was researching his family tree." Through him, Jeanette found out she had distant relatives who held a family picnic in Greenwich Park, London, each year. Kathy (née Hipsey) was one of them.
"I went to their picnic in July 1998 and the Hipsey family welcomed me," said Jeanette. "Kathy was bronzed and running about playing rounders with all the youngsters. After that I saw her more or less each year and we exchanged correspondence, developing the family tree."
Soon afterwards, Kathy was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome, in which the kidneys leak protein from the blood into the urine. When they met in each succeeding year, her relative started to 'fail before her eyes'.
Doctors attempted to control Kathy's gradual kidney failure through drugs, but she was placed on dialysis in 2003, and in 2005 told a new kidney was the only thing that could save her, and placed on the transplant waiting list.
Jeanette said: "Kathy rang me in October 2005 and told me the news. I said, 'Oh, I'll give you a kidney' because it had been going through my mind.
"There was a slight pause and then she said 'You are lovely'.
"I'd carried a donor card since they were introduced. I thought, 'I'm 64 and if I don't walk under a bus soon, my kidneys won't be of much use to anyone'."
Jeanette underwent counselling and health checks through Derriford's renal department prior to the operation 18 months later.
The transplant, during which Jeanette's left kidney was removed and given to Kathy, took place at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel on June 19 last year.
"I was as frightened as I could be, but it was something I wanted to do," said Jeanette. "I was surprised I found the courage to do it. Having my kidney removed was the experience of a lifetime."
Having recovered. from the operation, losing the organ had not negatively affected her life.
"It's improved my life," she said. "I've been scrutinised from head to toe. Essentially I've now got a deficit of kidney function, but it doesn't affect me physically."
Since retiring from the NHS in 2005, Jeanette has been a volunteer at the Women's Royal Voluntary Service tea bar in Derriford's acci¬dent and emergency department.