Two selfless brothers have given the gift of life to others – after they BOTH donated kidneys to people they’ve never met.
Siblings Stefan, 29, and Kevin Burke, 27, went through major operations after realising they could help sufferers who desperately needed a new organ.
Amazingly Kevin decided to give a kidney after spotting a post on social media site Reddit.
But it was when their concerned dad called older brother Stefan in to talk Kevin out of it, that he was instead roped into the unusual good deed.
Kevin said: “I would really like to be able to donate more money to charity but I don’t have enough money so instead I decided to give in another way.
“I was really taken in when I read about live kidney donating chains. I knew immediately I wanted to be involved.”
“On researching the subject it turned out there were loads of reasons to go ahead with it, and none to not.”
Older brother Stefan, who works with Kevin at a company that creates websites for bouncy castle companies, said: “My dad was worried that Kevin would be undergoing an unnecessary operation and that he didn’t know who he was giving a kidney to – it could be a bad person.
“So when I rang Kevin to talk to him about Dad’s concerns he ended up talking me into it because it seemed such a great idea. And of course I could not be outdone by my younger brother.”
The brothers, who are best mates and “party buddies”, were surprised to read that only 100 kidneys a year are given through altruistic donation, yet 300 people die each year waiting for a kidney.
Stefan said: “The reality is that you can live perfectly fine on one kidney. So all the while you’ve got some people living a rotten life of pain and dialysis because they don’t have one.”
“We’ve got to realise how lucky we are. We have got a really good deal so it was great to be in a position to help somebody else.”
The brothers were raised in a caring household in Manchester, with nurse mum Lorraine Butterworth, 54, and retired support worker dad, Kiaran Burke, 62.
Although he’s not done anything on this scale before, Stefan believes he does his bit for society as he is a vegan and gives money to charity. Kevin is a vegetarian.
Kevin said: “Although I am registered as an organ donor, but it could be that I die in circumstances where they can’t take my organs, this way I am giving while I’m alive.”
Stefan said: “Once you decide you want to donate there are a number of rigorous tests to go through to make sure you’re healthy enough.”
They started the ball rolling in August last year before tests were carried out.
When they were given a clean bill of health they then had to sort time out with work.
They both work for the same company so they had to stagger their operations. Each operation requires six weeks recovery time.
Luckily the government covers a person’s wages while you are off work sick after being a living kidney donor.
These operations only became legal in 2007, until then it was illegal to donate to someone you didn’t know.
Kevin had his operation on October 21 and Stefan had his on December 8.
Stefan is still laid up recovering in the camper van that he calls home.
Stefan said: “I decided to take my time off at Christmas when it would be fairly quiet. I imagined I might be at home doing the odd jobs and having a nice time off over Christmas, but it’s not quite like that.
“I do feel like a 70-year-old. I am recovering from major surgery after all. I really do feel quite ill.
“I am still getting all the care and attention, even though I decided to put myself in this position.
“My girlfriend is looking after me and my parents were there as I was having the operation.”
The operation to remove a kidney is a complex one where surgeons have to perform intricate surgery to take out a tightly packed organ.
But for the recipient it is fairly easy, as they can put the kidney in the body where it fits.
A person receiving a kidney will also feel much better immediately.
So far, neither Kevin or Stefan know who received their kidneys.
Stefan said: “There was a woman in the local paper who said she’d got her kidney through an altruistic donor and I suspect I might be her donor, but you can’t find out for sure unless you go through the proper channels.
“I hope to get in touch with my recipient as it would be nice to know who I have helped.”
And as for their dad, he finally came round to their way of thinking after doing his own research.
Stefan said: “Dad is now really proud of us.”
The brothers got involved in the scheme through website www.giveakidney.org and donated a kidney to something called the paired/pooled donation scheme.
The paired/pool scheme involves four or more people, made up of two or more “couples.”
One person in each couple is waiting for a kidney transplant, and the other wants to give a kidney to them but is not a good enough match to them (perhaps their blood type is different or their tissue type does not match).
He or she therefore volunteers to give a kidney to a member of a couple in a similar situation, in return for a kidney for his or her partner. Essentially the kidneys are ‘swapped’ to a recipient who matches each donor.
The “paired” scheme involves two “couples”, and the “pooled” scheme involves more than two couples.
If an altruistic donor offers to donate his or her kidney to such a scheme, it can ‘trigger’ in an altruistic donor chain with two or three people receiving a kidney, who may not otherwise find a suitable transplant.
Kevin, who is back to full health after his operation, said: “They say with charity you should give until it hurts – and that’s what we did.
“I’m not perfect, I’m still concerned with partying and all those things you’d expect from a guy of my age, but I’m also concerned about doing the right thing morally, and leaving this planet in a better state than I found it in.”
For more information visit www.giveakidney.org