What's mine is yours, bruv
After Jason Ballard's kidneys failed, he faced a life of gruelling dialysis and early death.But now he is able to live a normal life again, thanks to brother Damon's gift of one of his own.
After Jason Ballard's kidneys failed, he faced a life of gruelling dialysis and early death.
But now he is able to live a normal life again, thanks to brother Damon's gift of one of his own.
The two brothers, from Beccles, have always been close and even run their own painting and decorating company, Ballard Brothers, together.
But Jason never expected that he would owe his life to his younger brother.
Jason's illness emerged in 1998 when he went to his GP with a headache.
It emerged that he had Berger's disease, a type of nephritis which causes inflammation of the kidneys and can lead to kidney failure.
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Jason, 41, of Gosford Road, said: "I went in with a headache and came out with kidney disease.
"I felt pretty low when I found out I had the disease but then I put it to the back of my mind."
By 2005 he needed to travel to hospital for four hours of dialysis every other day, and was put on the waiting list for a donor kidney - along with around 6,000 people waiting for a transplant nationally.
At Addenbrooke's Hospital, in Cambridge, where he had his transplant, around one in three gets a kidney within a year but many of the rest, who are harder to match, have to wait much longer.
Jason said: "I didn't want to ask Damon - I hoped he would offer.
"looked around the room and said, 'Oh God, if I can't have mum's I wonder whose I can have?' and then looked at him. Damon was probably sitting there thinking, 'I think he means me'.
"I remember doing his paper round for him when he was about 10 so he owed me anyway!"
Damon, 39, of Field View Gardens, said: "It went something like that. I knew I would do it. I didn't ask any questions. But I had loads of fears. A counsellor asked what my biggest fear was and I said 'dying'.
"If Jason's body had rejected my kidney that would have been bad too.
"To go through all that - we would have been gutted."
The brothers went into hospital on January 16 and emerged nine hours later after a successful operation.
Because it would be too complicated to remove them, Jason's diseased kidneys are still in place, and the new kidney has been connected to blood vessels that run to and from his leg. There is still a risk of rejection, meaning he has to take drugs to suppress his immune system, but the risk goes down every day.
Both brothers are grateful to the James Paget University Hospital, where Jason had his dialysis, and to Addenbrooke's.
Their mother, Wendy, said: "When we first found out Jason needed a kidney I offered mine. I was happy to do it, but because he has a brother it is better to come from him as he is younger and fitter than me.
"I thought it was wonderful when Damon offered.
"I am very proud of them. To see them together now, there just seems to be that little extra between them."
Jason said: "Damon's kidney has given me a new life. It is something I can never pay back. I will be forever grateful to him."