A COUPLE are both recovering from major surgery after life-changing kidney ‘swops’.

Catherine and Neil Beanland, from Kingsteignton, were part of a national transplant ‘sharing’ scheme where Catherine donated one of her healthy kidneys to an anonymous donor while Neil, who desperately needed a transplant, received a kidney from another suitable, live donor.

It meant the couple both underwent surgery in Bristol where Catherine donated one of her fully functioning kidneys while Neil, who suffered from polycystic kidney disease, received a matching organ from another donor.

Both are now three weeks post surgery and recovering well. 

Catherine, 51, who is PA to the head teacher at Dawlish College, explained: ‘Neil’s condition had started to decline and there was talk of him needing a transplant. 

‘His kidney function was down to three per cent and he ended up in hospital with a ruptured cyst and had to have one of his kidneys removed.

‘He was on dialysis three times a week for fours hours at a time and he couldn’t work.

‘I had been tested but I was not a match for him.

‘We were asked to go on a sharing scheme where we could go into a pool of people nationally where everyone is on a database.

‘It’s a bit of a lottery but we eventually matched with one recipient and a donor.

‘I had to undergo lots of tests to make sure I was fit enough. 

‘I donated my kidney to a stranger and Neil received a kidney from another stranger.’

Both Neil and Catherine are recovering well. 

Neil’s kidney function is now up to 90 per cent and while he takes 120 tablets a week, it is hoped this will reduce and he will only have to take anti-rejection drugs in the future. 

Neil, an army veteran, was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease about 15 years ago. 

His mother was a sufferer and the disease is hereditary. 

He and his two brothers were tested and were all positive for the condition although they had a 50/50 chance. 

Neil, 49, who works for Network Rail, was forced to go on sick leave when his condition deteriorated.

But following the transplant, his new kidney started working straight away. 

Neil in hospital following his transplant
Neil in hospital following his transplant (MDA )

Sore and bruised, he is improving every day.

Catherine said: ‘It was a very scary experience and I had never had an operation before and going into that when I wasn’t unwell was strange.

‘There was a lot to consider and it was emotional. I had offered to donate to Neil but I was not a match for him.

‘You can live with only one kidney and once I get over the surgery, I won’t know any difference.’

Catherine after her kidney donation
Catherine after her kidney donation (MDA)

Life for the couple with Neil’s dialysis was difficult and meant they missed holidays and family occasions.

Catherine said: ‘It was hard seeing him change over the last few years.

‘Once he gets over this, his life will change.’

Catherine’s 50th birthday celebrations were put on hold but they are now planning a cruise to mark Catherine’s belated birthday and their recovery.