9 May 2022

Engineer who donates kidney to a stranger is recognised for his incredible act of kindness

James would like to encourage others to become a donor as there are thousands of people waiting.
James Mason

A man who has donated his kidney to a stranger has won our Kindness Competition.

James Mason, 46, who lives in Barnstaple, was watching the local news when a lady requiring a kidney did an appeal for more people to come forward as donors.

After looking into kidney donation and doing some research, James decided to go ahead so he had all the necessary health checks. In December 2019, James donated his spare kidney.

James Mason said: “There was a lady in Cornwall, who appealed on the local news to see if she could find someone for a kidney donor as she'd been waiting for quite a long time. And because of a medical condition, she wasn't suitable to receive a kidney from a deceased donor, it had to be a living donor.

“At the time I didn't even realise donating a kidney while you're still alive was even a thing.

“Since I've donated my kidney, I've taken every opportunity I can to raise awareness. Because it was through media and local news that I was inspired to do it. 

“For a while, I was going to keep it quiet but then I thought if I share my story, you never know somebody might read it and they might be inspired to do a similar thing.”

We launched our Kindness Competition to celebrate those incredible people who are supporting others.

LiveWest is proud of the positive things happening in communities and it wanted to recognise those striving to make a difference.

James, who works as an Electronics Engineer, decided he might be the ideal candidate as he was adopted, and he doesn't have any children, so he is unlikely to be a match for his family. 

James came forward as a donor, but after the initial testing it was found that he wasn't a suitable match for the lady who did the appeal. Despite this, he still decided to carry on and become a donor for somebody else.

He then found another donor but although James wanted to proceed, his mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer, so he had to withdraw at that time. 

Then a year later he tried again. This time there were some complications in the operating theatre so once again he was unable to donate.

James was hoping to donate through the pairing scheme, but he didn't get a match, so he donated directly to someone on the waiting list.

James said: “At the time, I didn't have any idea who it was but about three months later I got a letter from her mum. 

“I've since been in touch, and I visited her family to see the impact and the changes it's had on her life, and it is just incredible. It's been really nice to actually get to find out how things went.”

James going canoeing

He has a check-up once a year to check the remaining kidney function which has doubled in size and functions well on its own.

His friends and family were a bit concerned about the risks involved but once they knew everything had gone okay, they all thought it was amazing.

James said: “My friends and family said, ‘what if you need the kidney?’ or ‘what if something goes wrong with your remaining kidney?’ I’ve read lots into it and if you have kidney failure it’s usually both so I would still need a kidney.

“All I had to do was go into an operating theatre and then rest for a few weeks and now my life is completely normal - it's had no impact. Apart from a very small scar to remind me.

“Most people are pretty put off by the idea, but I think if just one person sees this and thinks I could do that then that helps even more. 

“There's a lot of testing involved obviously and then the NHS cover your loss of earnings while you're recovering. But four weeks after the operation I was back at work and avoiding heavy lifting but other than that, it was a quick recovery.” 

James remains part of some Facebook groups of kidney donors in the UK so he can support other donors going through the process and the testing so they can answer any questions they may have. 

Lots of donors don't find out about their recipients whereas, James was able to speak to the family in December 2021. 

The person he helped wasn't ready to meet him, but he met some members of her family and got to hear the impact that it had on them, so he feels very lucky to be able to do this.

James said: “I understand that they can't imagine why somebody like me would do what I did, and I can't imagine what it's like for her so it must be difficult. It was more important for me to hear that she is doing well even if she didn't feel ready to meet me herself.

“Most importantly my recipient is no longer on dialysis, and she's been able to go to university and lead a normal life which is really positive.

“I couldn't have wished for a better outcome. Ultimately a donated kidney probably won't last forever and there may come a time when she needs another one or has to go back on dialysis but hopefully that won't be for many years yet.” 

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