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Distant cousins' very special bond...

ESSEX ECHO NEWS - 8th July 2008
Story by Sarah Calkin

TRACING your family tree is just an intriguing hobby for most people. But for Kathy Skinner, it saved her life.

She only met distant cousin Jeanette Hipsey, after a Canadian relative brought them together at a family reunion ten years ago.

The pair lived at opposite ends of the country, but found they were born with the same surname and shared a great, great, great, grandfather.

Now they also share a really special bond - Jeanette has given up a kidney to allow Kathy to have a life-saving transplant operation.

In 2000, Kathy, 68, of Ash Road, Hadleigh, was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome, a form of kidney failure.

Her condition was treated with drugs for four years but deteriorated so much she was rushed to hospital over Christmas 2004.

Ever since, she has needed three four-hour dialysis sessions at Southend Hospital every week and has been on the kidney transplant waiting list.

Then Jeanette, from Plymouth, offered one of her kidneys to save her cousin's life.

Kathy, who has two children and two grandchildren, said: "Our lives were on hold, living day to day.

"I don't think people realise just how important being a donor is until it happens to you.

"There are people out there who will spend their whole lifetime waiting for a kidney."

Cousin Jeanette worked for 40 years as a nurse and a medical secretary in the NHS and said offering the kidney was an obvious choice for her.

She explained: "Although we only met once a year and communicated sporadically, I was aware her health was failing.

"I have carried a donor card for years and I wanted to do this for Kathy, because she is such a courageous lady."

The transplant took place at the Royal Hospital London last June.

As a result, Kathy's health is slowly improving and the cousins say they have become much closer in so many ways.

Kathy said: "It's strange. I've always liked a gin and tonic, but Jeanette's never enjoyed a drink. When I came out of hospital I no longer felt like touching a drop."