Norfolk kidney transplant patient gets pioneering treatment which could help thousands

Laura Thompson, left, of Rockland All Saints, who was the second person to have a kidney transplant

Laura Thompson, left, of Rockland All Saints, who was the second person to have a kidney transplant where the kidney had been tested in a new machine beforehand. With her is her friend and carer, Shirley Colenutt. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

For years, she has battled a debilitating condition, requiring thousands of hours of treatment. But today Laura Thompson is looking to the future with new confidence, after becoming one of the first two people in the world to benefit from a revolutionary treatment.

Laura Thompson of Rockland All Saints, who was the second person to have a kidney transplant where t

Laura Thompson of Rockland All Saints, who was the second person to have a kidney transplant where the kidney had been tested in a new machine beforehand. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

The 68-year-old, from Rockland All Saints, has undergone a new form of kidney transplant, which will raise fresh hopes for the thousands of Britons who have spent months or years on hospital lists waiting for a suitable organ to become available. She said the procedure had 'given me my life back'.

Ms Thompson had become reliant on three-and-a-half hour sessions of dialysis, five days a week since suffering kidney failure four years ago. But she is on the road to recovery after undergoing a transplant at Addenbrooke's Hospital, in Cambridge, just before Christmas.

The operation went ahead after researchers developed a new technique to test kidneys. The procedure – pioneered by Mike Nicholson – allows doctors to assess the viability of a kidney outside the body.

It is hoped that the technique could significantly increase the rates of successful transplants, because it allows scientists to not only assess, but rejuvenate, kidneys which would otherwise be rejected as not being healthy enough for transplant.

There are around 6,000 patients in the UK waiting for kidney transplants, but last year there were only enough organs for around 3,000 operations. This is partly because around 17pc of kidneys available for transplant are rejected due to concerns over their quality.

In December, Ms Thompson and Paul Southgate, 31, from Colchester, both received a kidney from a 35-year-old male donor. Those kidneys had been rejected by 24 other transplant centres, according to surgeons.

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However, Dr Nicholson and his team used a technique to revive the organ sufficiently.

Ms Thompson said: 'The kidney had been rejected by other hospitals at first because it had marks on it which they thought showed damage, but tests on the machine showed it was just dried blood. I was asked if I'd be happy to take it, and of course I said yes. The last kidney I was offered a few weeks earlier had cysts on it so it was rejected.'

The operation has changed Ms Thompson's life, and that of her carer, Shirley Colenutt.

'It's absolutely made my life better. I have got the freedom to do things like go on holiday,' said Ms Thompson. 'Before, I was going to Addenbrooke's twice a week, and I was tied to the dialysis machine every day. My carer, Shirley, would have to set the machine up and clean it, so she's been freed up too,' she added.

She also thanked the team at Addenbrooke's for their 'amazing' work. 'You don't realise until you have had these operations the marvellous things they do. They are very caring people and don't get the acknowledgement that they should. I can't praise them enough,' she said.

Have you benefited from a medical breakthrough? Email nicholas.carding@archant.co.uk