A mum-of-five has had a life-saving kidney transplant after successfully appealing for an organ donor – on Facebook.
Ann Gath, 43, launched an online campaign to find a kidney donor in 2021 after her rare blood type meant she struggled finding a suitable transplant match.
She received thousands of comments from well-wishers and several people were tested to see if they could give her a kidney, but they were all unsuccessful.
That was until complete stranger Nicola Hinds, 36, saw the post and reached out to Ann, saying that she would like to be tested to see if she was a match.
Luckily, they found out in June last year that she was a match and the pair are currently in the last stages of recovering from the transplant that they had in December last year.
Ann said: “When I found out she was a match, it was just incredible.
“When I did the post in September and in January, I never really believed that a stranger would come forward and donate.
“I never thought anything would come of it, it just felt like it was the only control I had to put it out there and see what happened.
“When I got the phone call, it was just like winning the lottery.
“It was just unbelievable really and very surreal.
“It’s really hard to describe because I’d gone from just accepting that that was going to end my life for a couple of years to ‘Oh my gosh, I could actually get a job.
“I realised I could do stuff with my children again and live normally, rather than being absolutely exhausted.
“In June when I found out, I was really struggling with energy levels and it was just getting harder and harder being on dialysis so it was just amazing and incredible.”
Ann was diagnosed with Autosomal Dominant Tubulointerstitial Kidney Disease in 2017 which means her kidneys were gradually deteriorating.
Within 18 months, she was forced to undertake life-saving dialysis sessions, where doctors regularly removed waste products and excess fluid from her blood.
This left her feeling ‘exhausted’ and suffering from chronic fatigue but now thanks to the transplant she can do ‘basic stuff’ like cook tea and take her children to the park.
Ann, of Barnsley, South Yorks,. said: “I’m back to my normal self – I can go shopping and it’s not an ordeal and I can go for a walk and then make dinner for my kids.
“It was simple stuff like that that I couldn’t do so I would end up calling at McDonalds and sometimes, I couldn’t even be bothered to get in the car so I would get Uber Eats.
“I’ve been able to go shopping, make a proper dinner and then tidy up and do all the house work after so it’s all the basic stuff I’ve been able to do so far.
“I’ve started doing yoga again and started walking and I can take my kids to the park so life is starting to return to normal.”
Nicola saw Ann’s Facebook post by chance and ‘immediately’ decided she would put herself forward after realising they have the same blood group.
Nicola, of Doncaster, South Yorks,. said: “I immediately said I was going to put myself forward because I knew the biggest hurdle she would face, is her blood group.
“I knew that she might have a handful or even hundreds of people put themselves forward, but not everyone knows what their blood group is until they get tested.
“The chances of someone being a good blood group match were very slim so I thought that I could help her overcome that hurdle straight away.
“I hadn’t been on Facebook before and created my account in December, so it’s pretty much divine intervention because I created it at the right time.”
The mum-of-two also said that she feels like the ‘mission is complete’ now Ann is able to return to do the things she was unable to do.
Nicola said: “It’s mission complete – that’s the only way to sum it up.
“The fact she is able to do all of those things she wanted to do but she was unable to do, makes me think that my decision to donate was the right decision.
“I just feel like now, the mission is complete.”
The pair have become friends after the surgery and were even discharged from the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield, South Yorks,. on the same day.
Nicola and Ann also have met up around four times since the surgery and will be going on a trip to the seaside together in the Summer.
Ann, a Slimming World consultant, said: “We’ve become friends and it’s almost like we forget how we met – it kinda feels like we’ve always been in each other’s lives.
“We met in November and I was a little bit reluctant to meet her at first because I didn’t want her to feel under pressure.
“It’s one thing sharing certain things on social media but when you meet someone who is living that illness, I didn’t want to make her feel guilted into it if that makes sense.
“We met before the surgery and it was just like meeting an old school friend, we never stopped talking for a couple of hours and we kept in touch ever since.”
They are now encouraging anyone who has ever consider ‘provoked interest’ in being a donor, to find out more information and to help spread awareness.
Nicola said: “If anything has provoked interest in your being a living donor, please go onto the NHS website.
“I’m not asking people to do it and I don’t expect anyone else to become a donor because it’s a massive decision to make.
“But if anyone has thoughts of donating to a family member or friend, then consider doing it to a stranger because then another stranger could consider it.
“If you can’t donate, the best thing you can do to raise awareness is by sharing posts and engage with charities.”