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One of world's longest surviving transplant patients, who lives in Greenhithe, marks 50 years with donated kidney


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One of the world's longest surviving transplant patients has defied the odds to celebrate 50 years with his new kidney.

Grandfather-of-two Dave Harvey, 72, from Greenhithe, was a bass player in a rock band when he started to become very ill aged 21.

Dave Harvey talks about the importance of organ donation

Diagnosed with a genetic kidney disease, he faced life on dialysis.

But just a few months later, on December 26, 1971, he was offered a kidney transplant.

The rocker became the first person to have the then-ground-breaking operation at Bart’s Hospital in London.

It was expected the organ - which came from the victim of a car crash - would last him 10 years, but five decades later it's still going strong.

Dave is among the longest surviving transplant patients in the world.

Dave Harvey at his home. Picture: SWNS
Dave Harvey at his home. Picture: SWNS

The semi-retired stock auditor, from Greenhithe, said: "I just feel so grateful. It really is the gift of life.

“Fifty years is absolutely remarkable even by today’s standards I think.

“Last year I knew of one woman who had a transplanted kidney of the same age.

"I'm very lucky."

Dave was playing bass guitar in a band called Iron Maiden – three years before the famous band of the same name formed – and was enjoying life before he got ill.

Dave Harvey in his garden at his home in Greenhithe. Picture: SWNS
Dave Harvey in his garden at his home in Greenhithe. Picture: SWNS
Dave Harvey with his granddaughter. Picture: SWNS
Dave Harvey with his granddaughter. Picture: SWNS

He started to suffer with extreme fatigue and severely swollen ankles, and was diagnosed with Alport syndrome.

The rare genetic disorder is characterised by progressive kidney disease and abnormalities of the inner ear and the eye.

He started dialysis and said the treatment was hard to cope with.

“When I had the diagnosis, I was living the high life and having a great time, so to find out I had kidney disease was like having the rug pulled from under my feet," he said

“Before my transplant, I was at home for three months at my parents’ place having dialysis.

Dave as a younger man around the time of his operation in 1971. Picture: SWNS
Dave as a younger man around the time of his operation in 1971. Picture: SWNS

"It was awful. I hated dialysis, cleaning the machines, going through that. I don’t know how people cope being on dialysis for a long time.”

The family had enjoyed Christmas Day, then on Boxing Day a call came - there had been a road traffic accident and there was a kidney waiting for Dave.

He now has three kidneys, because the new one was popped in the left of his tummy and his own kidneys left in as they weren't causing any harm.

Dave had a plastic tent round his bed, and staff came and went wearing full PPE to prevent infection while he was in recovery.

Healthy Dave still goes to the gym three times a week, and holidays up to four times a year.

Dave Harvey still keeps fit. Picture: SWNS
Dave Harvey still keeps fit. Picture: SWNS

Intrepid Dave and his survivor kidney have recovered from hepatitis C 10 years ago and a triple heart bypass just three years ago.

The transplant enabled him to meet and marry his soulmate Anne, who died age 62 eight years ago, and have two children.

Dave said: “I’m very lucky.

“I was apprehensive because the surgery was so new, but I trusted everybody. We had a good relationship.

“It was the answer to getting off the kidney machine and I felt optimistic.

Dave Harvey on his wedding day in 1976 with his wife Anne. Picture: SWNS
Dave Harvey on his wedding day in 1976 with his wife Anne. Picture: SWNS

“Afterwards I just felt such relief and gratitude.

“I wanted to meet that person’s family but they don’t allow you to.

“I want to show them how grateful I am, and that their son’s tragic loss wasn’t completely in vain."

Brit Angela Dunn is thought to be the longest-surviving transplant patient in the world, still leading a healthy life with the same kidney.

She had her operation July 25, 1970 at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.

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