John, Bill and Robert Whiteford all suffer from autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease.

By Lucy Ashton

Three brothers with a rare genetic kidney disorder have all now received life-saving kidney transplants within three years of each other, thanks to organ donors across the UK.

John, Bill and Robert Whiteford all suffer from autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADKPKD) – a genetic degenerative illness which sees kidney function gradually decrease to the point of failure, meaning all would have required ongoing dialysis.

Luckily, thanks to donors, the brothers all have a brand new lease of life, and a new kidney, with John Whiteford successfully receiving his transplant last week at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, following seven months of dialysis.

Each brother received their kidney through separate routes – each with their own unique story – but all being reliant on donors.

Mr Marc Clancy, lead consultant for transplant surgery at NHSGGC, who also performed John’s transplant, said:  “The three brothers highlight the different routes people can receive transplants and we’re delighted to have been part of the process for John and Bill, as well as John’s daughter Sonia’s kidney donation. Furthermore, it’s fantastic to see them all recovering, albeit at different stages, and we wish them well for the future.

“Across NHSGGC we’ve been fortunate in being able to maintain a full kidney transplant service across the West of Scotland Renal Transplant Centre. This means a total of 224 transplants have taken place since April 2020. Thanks to the new opt-in rules which came into effect earlier this year we expect the numbers of transplants to take place across the UK to increase upwards of 30% over the next 5 years. This is fantastic news for our patients, and despite the pandemic, we are in a strong position within NHSGGC and anticipate similar growth in figures within our own service.”

Meet the brothers

John Whiteford – received a kidney through the Living Kidney Sharing Scheme

John, who was discharged earlier this week, received his transplant at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, thanks to his daughter Sonia who was not a match, but was happy to donate her kidney as part of the UK Living Kidney Sharing Scheme. The scheme means if a donor is unable to donate directly, as was the case here, they are registered in a national scheme which matches them up with other pairs throughout the UK. This means Sonia’s kidney helped save a life elsewhere, while another donor’s kidney was given to John.

The retired minister, who is married with four children, is looking forward to getting his life back on track, and especially to spending time back in Sweden where his wife is from. 

John said:  “I am massively thankful to everyone working in dialysis and in the transplant arena. The team at the QEUH was excellent throughout and the care has been second to none.  I couldn’t believe it when I was matched, it really is life changing news. The dialysis keeps me alive but I’m tethered to a machine three days per week and you’re energy levels are low. Transplant is the long-term solution and I’m incredibly thankful to my daughter Sonia, and to the UK Living Kidney Scheme.”

Daughter and 38 year old mum of two, Sonia, said: “The Living Kidney Sharing scheme has allowed me to help my dad and that is a huge privilege and an amazing thing to be part of. I can already see him getting better and his kidney function is improving every day. There’s a real feeling of joy and relief at the same time, and while I was only discharged this week, I’m already feeling my energy levels returning. As a mum of two getting that back fully is essential!

“The genetic condition which runs in our family means 50% of us will have kidney issues so we really are all in this together, and it’s inspiring to see how well programmes like the Living Kidney Sharing scheme work in practice.”

Bill Whiteford – received a kidney from a friend 

Retired BBC journalist Bill Whiteford is well on his way to recovery having received his kidney two weeks ago at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (07/08/21). Bill was lucky enough to have a friend who turned out to be a match.  Bill, who worked for the BBC for years, presenting the likes of Good Morning Scotland and BBC Drivetime, commented: “First and foremost I am grateful to my friend. It’s a massive decision to give up a kidney and I am humbled for his support, without which, I would inevitably still be on the waiting list and fast approaching the need for regular dialysis. I’d urge everyone to consider donating an organ – whether that’s through the living donor programmes or by having that important conversation with family to let them know your organ donation wishes in the event you pass away.”
Robert Whiteford – received his kidney from an altruistic donor through the Living Kidney Sharing Scheme

Robert, 67, was the first of the brothers to receive a kidney transplant. The retired vet who stays in Scone also received his kidney through the Living Kidney Sharing Scheme, with ex-wife Linda donating her kidney as part of the process. Luckily Robert was matched up in the first round of checks which meant he was able to avoid going on to dialysis.  Three years on and he remains extremely grateful to Linda and the altruistic donor he was matched with through the programme.  Robert said:  “I started developing symptoms around 10 years ago, and following a scan it was confirmed that I had the condition. Following that, my kidney function gradually fell to 8% but luckily through the programme I was matched very quickly. I’m extremely thankful to Linda and the altruistic donor, who joined the Kidney Sharing programme and helped facilitated my transplant, and others.

“I would tell anyone who is considering donating to a friend or loved one, to seriously consider the programme – even if you’re not a match, by donating your kidney you can ensure your loved one is matched with someone else.”

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