After three years of waiting, Andy Henwood got the kidney he had been waiting for, as GAVIN AITCHISON reports.

ANDY Henwood was asleep at home in Osbaldwick when he got the phone call that would change his life.

It was 5.45am, but within moments he was wide awake. The phone call was from Jimmy’s – St James’s University Hospital in Leeds. And they were calling to say they had a kidney for him. After an agonising wait of three years, this was Andy’s moment.

“It was quite surreal,” recalls the 54-year-old. “My wife Wendy and one of my daughters were running around like headless chickens, but I did not want to get over-excited in case I was disappointed.”

At the hospital, blood and tissue tests were carried out, to make sure the kidney wouldn’t be instantly rejected. Then at 12.30pm, less than seven hours after getting the call, Andy went under the knife.

The operation lasted four hours; the hospital stay a further two weeks, as his body gradually grew accustomed to the new kidney, and as the pain of the surgery gradually eased.

Andy was helped on the road to recovery by Wendy, and their daughters Rebecca, 29, Amy, 27, and Laura, 24. And when Rebecca got married to David Ryan at Fulford Church on July 2, two months after the transplant, Andy was able to enjoy a double celebration, as a proud father with a new lease of life.

“It made that so much better, the fact I was coming out of recovery,” he says. “That was the cherry on the cake – we had a perfect day, and she looked gorgeous.

“The restrictions had slightly gone and I could enjoy myself more and that was nice.”

For Rebecca too, the day was extra special. “Words can’t explain what it meant for me to have my dad walk me down the aisle on my wedding day,” she says.

“He is such an amazing husband, son, brother and first and foremost dad, and has been such an inspiration to me throughout my whole life.

“Getting married is something girls dream of and my dream included having the most important man in my life, dad, walk me down the aisle. It just wouldn’t have been an option to get married without him.”

Andy, a training manager at the University of York and a former soldier, was diagnosed with kidney failure three years ago and was being kept alive by dialysis treatment – three sessions a week at York Hospital, each lasting four hours.

He first told his story to The Press in April 2010, to support our Lifesavers campaign, but had to wait a further 13 months before his call came.

When it did so, it was thanks to an anonymous donor, a young woman from Manchester who had died and whose organs had been donated for transplant. That knowledge, says Andy, creates a mixed response, triggering sympathy and appreciation.

“Clearly you feel very sorry for the family,” he says. “Clearly there’s that feeling of loss for them, but gratitude as well in that someone is willing to donate part of their body for the benefit of somebody else.

“Part of you wants to meet the family and say thank you very much, but you realise that’s probably not going to happen.”

Before the transplant, everything Andy did had to fit around the dialysis, but three months on, he can lead his own life again.

“It’s great not going to hospital three times a week. And I can go on holiday now – I do not have to arrange dialysis if I go away. I just go once a week for a check-up. It’s about the impact on my wife and family as well.

“I can now go away for a long weekend if I want, without thinking about dialysis.

“I can eat different things and have more of a normal diet. I can drink more – just go down the pub and have a pint. And with dialysis, there is a huge pressure on your heart, but my heart is not under that pressure now.”

Before the transplant, Andy was told not to consume too much liquid, ideally no more than half a litre a day; now he can have up to four litres.

“You can have a bit more sauce, for example, in a dish. Before, if I had a steak pie, there would be fluid in it and I would have to be careful,” he says.

Story demonstrates how lives can be changed

A record number of transplants were carried out in the UK last year, but demand is also rising.

Joanne Brooks, specialist organ donation nurse at York Hospital, said: “Andy’s story shows that organ donation and transplantation not only saves lives but changes the life of the recipient and their family.

“Sadly though, an average of three people die every day because they haven’t had the transplant they needed. I would urge anyone who supports organ donation to join the organ donor register today.”

The Press ran its Lifesavers campaign last year to raise awareness of organ donation and to urge people to join the register.

For more information on organ donation, or to sign up, phone 0300 1232323, visit or text SAVE to 84118.

Opt out or opt in?

BRITAIN currently has an “opt-in” approach to organ donation, meaning people have to actively say so if they want their organs to be used for transplants when they die.

Some want the system reversed, so all organs can be used except when people have explicitly removed themselves from the list.

NHS research shows as many as 90 per cent of people support organ donation, but only 29 per cent have signed up.

Those in favour of changing the system say it would reduce waiting lists, but a 2008 report by the UK Organ Donation Taskforce said “presumed consent” would undermine the concept of donation as a gift, could destroy public trust in NHS professionals and the Government, and would be challenging and costly to implement.

York Press: The Press - Comment

Grateful for this new lease of life

IT IS a proud day for any father when he walks his daughter down the aisle.

For former soldier Andy Henwood, however, his daughter Rebecca’s wedding was extra special.

For three years, his life had been on hold. On the waiting list for a new kidney, he had been enduring 12 hours a week of dialysis.

Then, just two months before Rebecca’s big day, came the call he had been waiting for so long. A young woman from Manchester had died – and her kidneys were a good match.

In any case like this, joy is mixed with sad-ness. Andy feels understandably sorry for the family of the young woman who died. But he feels immense gratitude, too.

Following a four-hour operation and a two-week hospital stay, Andy is a changed man. Thanks to his new kidney, the 54-year-old is enjoying a fresh lease of life.

We share his sympathy for the family of the young woman who died. Like him, we hope they will be able to take some comfort at least in knowing that her decision to sign the organ donor register has given someone else a new lease of life.

There is still, however, a desperate shortage of donors. That is why we launched our Lifesav-ers campaign. Andy believes the law should be changed, so that people are automatically included on the register unless they opt out.

We wouldn’t necessarily go that far.

But we do think more people should voluntar-ily sign up. It won’t cost you anything: and it could, one day, make all the difference to someone like Andy.

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