Dad’s gift of life

Jamie and Phil pictured with Jaxson Marlow and Maisie Marlow, both aged four
Jamie and Phil pictured with Jaxson Marlow and Maisie Marlow, both aged four
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“I feel better than I’ve felt in years, I’m full of energy and fit as ever.”

These are the words of a man who underwent a major lifesaving kidney operation.

I feel a million times better – we can live our lives again

But they are not those of the transplant recipient - but of the donor.

Dad Phil Marlow gave the ultimate gift to his son Jamie, donating one of his kidneys to the 29-year-old whose life was on hold while undergoing kidney dialysis for a serious renal condition.

Now the father-of-three is keen that others learn from his family’s story, that live transplants are nothing to fear and can change lives.

Mr Marlow, 51, said: “Physically I feel no different, if anything I feel younger.

“And I feel so relieved, Jamie has his life back now and his future looks bright.”

Jamie, of Holmfield Road, Bispham, was first diagnosed with kidney disease (focal segmental glomerulosclerosis) in 2010, after being admitted to hospital that Christmas suffering sickness, exhaustion and major swelling.

The young father-of-three, had experienced his symptoms for weeks, even ballooning from 11 stone to 16 stone due to the swelling, before being hospitalised.

With his diagnosis he was able to start on medication to even out his condition and return to normal family life with wife Charlotte and Amelia, now seven, ahead of the birth of twins Jaxson and Maisie, now four. But only for so long.

He said: “In the end the medication stopped working. I developed pneumonia last February and went downhill from there.

“I started on kidney dialysis in July.”

Jamie spent three nights a week at Clifton Hospital, St Annes, undergoing dialysis treatment in a bid to stabilise his condition. Doctors told the family Jamie would need a transplant and his dad and younger brother, Phil jnr, immediately volunteered themselves.

Here the family was dealt another blow as Phil jnr, 28, was diagnosed with a kidney condition of his own, while undergoing tests for transplant, which leaves him on medication for life and unable to help his brother.

But it was better news for Phil snr, who against the odds was found to be a perfect match, on blood type and tissue type, for his son.

Jamie said: “If dad hadn’t been a match I might have been waiting, still having dialysis, for years.”

“I had to do it for him,” his dad added. “I didn’t have to think twice about signing up.

“I wanted to improve his quality of life, but even as a relative it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be a match.”

After undergoing tests to ensure the pair matched, Phil, who is an instructor at HMP Lancaster, underwent a series of ECGs, ultrasounds and genetic testing.

A date was set for the vital operation for September 2014.

But Jamie’s condition deteriorated rapidly, meaning he was too poorly to go under the knife. Finally, on April 20 this year, the pair prepared for the surgery at Manchester Royal Infirmary.

Phil underwent a four hour operation to remove one kidney, before surgeons had just 17 minutes to transfer the kidney to Jamie’s body, in an operation lasting three hours.

Mr Marlow snr said: “When I came to from surgery I was being wheeled into the ward and everyone was clapping and cheering. It was quite emotional.

“Everyone on the renal ward knew the importance of what we’d done.”

He and Jamie’s wife then had to endure an agonising hour-long wait for Jamie’s surgery to be completed before they knew if the operation had been a success.

Charlotte, 25, said: “It was an anxious time waiting for him to come out but when the nurses said it was working it was just great.

“And he looked different straight away after surgery.” Ten weeks after surgery, Phil will be able to return to work, having been discharged from hospital four days after the operation.

Jamie spent one week in hospital. Today, with three kidneys, the young dad must stick to a strict medication routine, taking 20 tablets each morning and a further six each night.

Amazingly though, his father, living with just one kidney, needs no medication and, other than keeping fit and healthy, needs no special diet or lifestyle changes for his body to copy with one less organ.

He said: “It doesn’t make any difference to your life, having this surgery, although I might have some smashing hangovers.” Jamie added: “I feel a million times better now. When I was on dialysis we could never go out and just enjoy ourselves, I was tired all the time.

“Now we can live our lives again. I’m just so grateful to him.”

Fiona Biggins, transplant recipient co-ordinator at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “It was a pleasure to assist in this case of living kidney donation and I am very pleased that Philip and Jamie have had a positive experience.

“Living kidney donation can give a psychological benefit for the living kidney donor as they can see the person they donated to having an enhanced quality of life.”

Phil, who lives in Ribbleton, in Preston, is now encouraging people to sign up to be live organ donors.

There are around 6,000 people on the waiting list for a kidney transplant in the UK Around 300 people in need of a kidney die in the UK each year.

He said: “Don’t wait until something like this happens to you, sign up. The operation is over like that.

“It doesn’t mean any big changes for you, just a few days of soreness, but you get an overwhelming feeling from having helped another person and given them a quality of life.”

• Call Fiona Biggins at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals on 01772 524353 or visit: www.giveakidney.org.

To sign up as a donor, visit: www.organdonation.nhs.uk