A desperately ill man who took himself off the transplant list following his wife’s death has been given the gift of life by his own sister.
Tim Jones, 44, an Airbus worker from Bryn-y-Baal, had taken himself off the transplant list following the loss of his wife, Hannah, to liver cancer as he wanted to protect his daughters Emily, now 16, and Ruby, now 12, from further trauma.
But both Tim’s big sister, Angela, 47, and brother, Chris, 50, stepped in and each offered to donate one of their own kidneys to help their younger brother survive.
And after a mammoth round of tests it was Angela who was chosen as the best match and she agreed to go through with the operation.
Since then, aircraft fitter Tim, who works at Airbus in Broughton, has gone on to celebrate his good health and taken to the track, racing to a 5K bronze medal at this summer’s British Transplant Games in Scotland.
Since the 2014 operation he has also landed a 100m silver and a team silver in cricket at Newcastle in 2015 and a 800m and 5k bronze in Liverpool in 2016.
He said: “I was on dialysis for basically 12 months and my kidney function was just getting worse
“I have a condition called IgA Nephropahy which, over time, clogged up my kidneys and stopped them working properly.
“I wasn’t in a good place and sadly my wife, Hannah, was diagnosed with liver cancer.
“We have two daughters, Emily and Ruby, and together we nursed Hannah but she passed away in 2013 which was really tough.
“I was on the transplant list but took myself off as I couldn’t face the thought of the girls having to deal with an emergency phone call telling me to present myself at hospital as a donor had been found.
“In the meantime tests were carried out to see if there was a living donor that could help me.
“And that’s when Angela and Chris stepped in as well as some friends.
“The tests were long and complicated and took about a year.
“In the end it was decided Angela was the best match and she agreed to go through with the operation.”
Tim says his family has a very strong bond but what Angela did in gifting one of her kidneys was incredibly brave.
He said: “After all the tests, and they checked everything, heart, lungs, liver, bones our whole bodies, we went into the Royal Liverpool Hospital for the operation.
“I walked Angela down to the operating theatres which is one of the most humbling things I’ve ever done.
“I went back to the ward and waited until the surgeon, Mr Ridgeway, came and told me he had a healthy kidney, a gift from my sister, ready to transplant into me.
“I had the operation and within three days the kidney was working pretty much perfectly.
“I owe my sister everything and know if Angela couldn’t have done it my brother Chris, who also works at Airbus, would have.”
Angela McClean, a mum of two sons who lives in Buckley and works in the accounts department at the Beaufort Hotel, New Brighton, says she had no hesitation in seeing if her kidney would be a compatible match for her brother.
She said: “I have two sons aged 17 and 19 and once I knew I was a good match I had to think hard about the decision to donate one of my kidneys.
“You have to think of your own children and family but I suppose there was never really much doubt I’d go through with it.
“Tim was diagnosed with the blood condition that affected his kidneys when he was 19 and I said then I’d give him one of mine.
“Blood is thicker than water and as a family we are very, very close.
“The tests before the operation were exhaustive they checked and treble checked everything. My kidneys were working well, one with a 52 per cent function and the other at 48 per cent meaning 100 per cent in total.
“There was no point Tim getting one of my kidneys if it wasn’t working at a high enough function.
“The operation was no problem but it took me a long time to get over it but now I feel no different and we can all live quite well with one kidney.”
Tim says he got involved with the British Transplant Games after his girlfriend, Leanne, who has a son Finley, picked up a leaflet about the event while visiting Tim at the Royal Liverpool Hospital.
He said: “I just decided to give it a go once I had seen that. I always had it in my mind to try it anyway.
“Our team manager Steve Deakin MBE always tells us it’s not about winning, we are all winners before we go. It’s just amazing to see these people, many who were desperately ill, doing so well. It’s inspirational.
“And it isn’t all kidney transplants, there’s people taking part who have had heart and lung transplants, liver transplants all sorts of life-saving operations.”
He added: “That’s why I’m desperate to get the message out that we need organ donors. It really is vital people understand your wishes should be respected.
“I have made very sure both Emily and Ruby know if anything happens to me then I want my organs such as my heart, lungs, liver and so forth, to be donated.
“I know in Wales we have presumed consent but it seems families can still block organs been used to save lives and that something we need to educate people about. Please have that conversation and let your family know your wishes.”
And Tim says life now is wonderful and he has never felt healthier thanks to his sister’s incredible gift.
He said: “I have been lucky in as much as I had the best care, the NHS staff at the Royal Liverpool Hospital and the staff at the Wrexham Mealor Hospital, and in particular specialist nurses Emma and Julie. People knock the NHS but believe me it’s a wonderful institution.
“I have to take immunosuppressant drugs every day to stop my body rejecting my sister’s kidney but that’s a small price to pay for being healthy. And of course I have Ange to thank for her incredible gift which has meant so much to me and my girls.”