New lease on life after kidney donated

By Ben Irwin

Paula Scholes (left) has had a fresh start in life after getting a kidney from Bev Elliot. Photo / Greg Bowker
Paula Scholes (left) has had a fresh start in life after getting a kidney from Bev Elliot. Photo / Greg Bowker

Paula Scholes thought she would not live to see her grandchildren being born, but because of the kindness of a woman she barely knew, she was given another chance at life.

Bev Elliot, 70, donated her left kidney to Mrs Scholes, now 63, because she felt it was "the practical thing to do".

Mrs Scholes was diagnosed with Lupus in 1970 while travelling in London, and by 2002, she was relying on a dialysis machine to keep her alive. She searched for a donor kidney, but donor after donor proved incompatible, including several close family members.

She met Mrs Elliot 10 years ago through a mutual friend.

Her church group supported Mrs Scholes during her illness and search for a donor and she decided to put her hand up to donate as Mrs Scholes was running out of options.

"Basically it came down to it that she was going to die without [getting] a kidney," Mrs Elliot said.

"I thought it through to a degree, but Paula was getting steadily worse and nothing was going right for her."

The transplant operation took place in August 2006 at Auckland Hospital, a year after Mrs Elliot first decided to offer her kidney.

Mrs Scholes struggled to put into words what it meant to receive the kidney.

"It was a heck of a shock because we didn't really know each other very well until the week before surgery," Mrs Scholes said.

Mrs Scholes was discharged from hospital the day before her 57th birthday. Four days later she was told she was going to be a grandmother for the first time.

"I never thought I would see grandchildren," Mrs Scholes said.

"My daughter came in and said she was pregnant and that I had something to live for, so it was absolutely beautiful."

Almost eight years later both Mrs Scholes and Mrs Elliot are healthy and active, despite having only one kidney each.

"We've both had wonderful lives from doing this," Mrs Scholes said. "She's carried on as normal, she hasn't even missed it, but she's given me another chance at life that was looking pretty slim."

The pair spoke to the Herald as part of World Kidney Day today to encourage organ donation.

As of December 31, 2012, 2469 New Zealanders were on dialysis, while 1524 were living with kidney transplants. Of those on dialysis, 300 to 400 would die every year.

Denise Beechey, clinical nurse specialist at Live Kidney Donation Aotearoa, said: "Being a non-family member doesn't rule people out and even not being the same blood type doesn't rule people out these days."

- NZ Herald

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