Dad in desperate need of kidney saved by daughter’s teachers

2018-09-20 20:05
PHOTO: CATERS/WWW.MAGAZINEFEATURES.CO.ZA

PHOTO: CATERS/WWW.MAGAZINEFEATURES.CO.ZA

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A dad in desperate need of a kidney has been saved by two teachers at his daughter's school – sparking a donor chain reaction that saw eight more lives being saved.

Dad-of-two Neil Emmott was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease (PKD) – which causes cysts to grow on the kidneys – in 2001, and over the next 15 years his vital organs began to fail.

In 2016 the usually shy and private Neil, from Fort Lauderdale in Florida in the US, was forced to make his plight public as his search for a suitable kidney became more desperate.

By the beginning of 2017, the 56-year-old’s kidney functionality was down to just 11%, leaving a single percentage of function before he’d need to be put on emergency dialysis.

When Neil’s wife, Lisa (44), and his brother, Gordon, were ruled out as potential donors because of minor health issues, Lisa – a kindergarten teaching assistant – broke down in front of one her colleagues, Allison Malouf (40), while explaining the family’s dire situation.

Allison, who teaches the couple's youngest daughter, Mackenzie (9), didn't hesitate in offering a kidney to Neil after her husband had donated a kidney to save a stranger eight years prior.

Unbeknown to the family, another teacher at the school, Britani Atkinson (44), had also registered as a potential donor for Neil in secret – hoping to save the family further disappointment if she was rejected.

“The diagnosis came as a huge shock to us – we were just enjoying our first year of marriage,” Lisa said.

“When I was denied [the chance] to donate a kidney, panic, fear and sheer anger all made me a prisoner of my own mind.

 “The only thing I wanted to do in my life was to give a piece of myself to save my husband – but I couldn’t.”

She says she knew that she had only one other option: to find a donor for her Neil.

 “I knew that Allison’s husband had donated a kidney eight years [before], and I wanted to tell her about it all because I knew she’d understand the donor process and the emotions that accompany the journey,” Lisa said.

“Her immediate response was, ‘I want to donate my kidney. Let’s get me tested for Neil.’ I was so shocked and politely declined her offer – but she insisted.”

Allison was approved as a donor in May last year, and soon after Britani was also approved.

But because of conflicting blood types and kidney sizes, neither of the pair could directly donate to Neil so they registered with the National Kidney Registry.

Allowing incompatible donor-patient pairs from all over the country to set up four-person “chains”, where donors can swop compatible organs. Britani’s universal blood type allowed her to find a match quickly – and, in turn, by September Neil was undergoing surgery.

Despite her initial designated recipient receiving a life-saving intervention, Allison remained inspired to donate a kidney, and after beginning a chain of her own, four others were saved – including a 14-year-old boy.

Now enjoying Neil’s renewed health, Lisa is hoping her story helps to comfort others desperately in search of a kidney.

Within 24 hours of Neil receiving a kidney, his health drastically improved.

“For 15 years, I had watched a downward trajectory in his [kidney] function. It seemed too good to be true that in just a matter of moments the numbers were climbing.”

“I’d seen him so grey and sullen for so many years, but now the colour had come rushing back to his face. It’s nearly impossible to express the gratitude we feel.”

Britani and Allison don’t see their actions as heroic, instead asking why they wouldn’t donate their kidneys as they each have two and only need one.

“I believe people can learn from Britani and Allison’s courage and selflessness by recognising that any greatness worth achieving usually happens outside your comfort zone, Lisa said.

Read more on:    us  |  organ donation  |  good news

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