A selfless gran told how she celebrated her 60th birthday – by donating a KIDNEY to a complete stranger.
Kind-hearted Joanna Ewing came up with the idea after her youngest son Oliver Martin developed renal failure at the age of 27 in 2009.
He then received a life-saving transplant from his brother Caspar Martin, who was aged 30, a year later in 2010.
Joanna knows her “gift” was given to a young man who had renal failure after she decided to donate her kidney.
She has now been named in a roll of honour of 500 British people who have given an organ to a non-family member since the law was changed ten years ago to allow it.
The gran, who lives in Doveridge, Derbys., said she felt “rough” after having the organ removed but three months later was “fighting fit” and is able to live her life normally.
She added: “It was the best feeling ever to help someone in need.
“I didn’t want to jump out of a plane to celebrate my birthday. Donating a kidney seemed like a better way to mark the milestone.
“We were all tested to see who could help Ollie and we all came back as positive matches.
“But it was Caspar who said he wanted to do it because he was younger and fitter than me.
“At the time it was a very selfless thing to do and I was overwhelmed. But I couldn’t get the thought of donating a kidney out of my head.
“I suppose it was because I’d had lots of tests and things and I’d been close to doing it for my son.
“Having seen the difference a kidney from his brother made to my son Ollie, I wanted to give another family the chance of a normal life.
“I can safely say that donating a kidney was the most amazing thing I have ever done.
“It seemed like the right thing to do, to give my kidney to someone else. So that’s what I did.
“The idea of donating a kidney just seemed to fit.
“My 60th birthday was fast approaching, Oliver was well and I just thought ‘why not?’.”
Joanna donated her kidney to a complete stranger to celebrate her 60th birthday three years ago in 2013.
She underwent her surgery at a hospital in Birmingham but doesn’t know who her kidney went to because it is up to the recipient to decide if they want to make contact.
Joanna, who is now 63, added: “Of course I’d love to meet them. That would be the most fantastic thing ever.
“I was rough after the surgery. I felt like I’d been really knocked about.
“For a while I did feel quite unwell but I was assured this was normal as I’d just undergone a huge operation.
“But I kept telling myself that it wasn’t about me. It was about the person I was helping. I was doing this for him.
“And three months after the surgery I was fighting fit and feeling very well.
“I must say that I could not have done this without the support of my family. It would have been impossible.”
Joanna is one of just 500 people who have donated a kidney to stranger as a living donor in the 10 years since the law changed to allow it.
She added: “It would be wonderful if more people considered it.
“I’m walking proof that you can do it and feel well afterwards. Today, I’m really, really great. I don’t feel any different to the time when I had two kidneys.
“I have been very lucky. I am still a very fit and healthy person.”
NHS Blood and Transplant are now encouraging more people to donate after it emerged almost 300 people died waiting for a kidney transplant last year.
Lisa Burnapp, Lead Nurse for Living Donation at NHS Blood and Transplant said: “Nearly three hundred people died waiting for a kidney transplant last year.
“Living donation is highly successful, and hundreds of people have had their lives saved and transformed in reaching this milestone over the past decade, thanks to the incredible generosity of these donors.
“Through donor chains, up to three people can benefit from a single donation because it can trigger a chain of transplants.
“The more people who are willing to consider donating in this way, the more kidneys there are available to help everyone waiting for a transplant.”
Bob Wiggins, chairman of charity Give a Kidney, which raises awareness of non-directed kidney donation, added: “We’re encouraging everyone to consider if you could share your spare.
“Many people still don’t know that any healthy adult can volunteer as a living donor.
“As a result of people like Joanna many hundreds of lives have been changed for the better.
“Not only that but together this group has already saved the NHS tens of millions of pounds over the cost of keeping the recipients of their kidneys on dialysis treatment.”