Published: 13:03, 23 October 2019
| Updated: 13:07, 23 October 2019
A 33-year-old woman first diagnosed with kidney failure when she was eight says there aren’t enough words to thank her friend who has donated his organ.
But while DJ Stewart Brown has sacrificed a kidney and Jojo Lawton has gained one, many might be surprised to learn that it wasn’t a direct transfer.
The friends of 15 years, both from Walmer in Deal, were part of a sharing scheme which involved three donors and three recipients in different parts of the country.
It means that Miss Lawton has received the best match possible while Mr Brown can be left with the knowledge that his selflessness has helped not just one person but several.
The gesture has relieved M&S worker Jojo of years of pain and suffering, having spent the last two years on dialysis.
She said: “He is my hero.
“I don’t think there will ever be enough words to say thank you to Stewart for what he’s done but obviously life is and will be completely better now.
“I won’t be on dialysis any more and I’ll have a normal life and that’s all I ever wanted really.”
This was the third transplant for the former Castle Community pupil.
She received her first transplant from a stranger aged nine. When she was 23 she received a second, that time from her mum Sharon Lawton.
While waiting for her third transplant, she has spent two and half years on dialysis - a process that purifies the blood as a substitute for the normal kidney function.
She said: “I had to carry around two and a half litres of fluid in my stomach during the day and every evening I’d be attached to a machine which would drain it for eight hours.
“It was agony at times. I’d get pulling pains and I’d barely sleep.
“It also made me look pregnant and I’d have people asking me if I was.”
Miss Lawton also underwent eight operations in six months because of issues with an internal tube.
As a result, she was put on a different form of dialysis which required her to visit hospital three times a week for three and half hours at a time. She would then go straight to work at the Dover St James’ store for an eight hour shift.
There was light at the end of the tunnel in the form of Mr Brown, 37, who always knew he wanted to help.
He said: “Jojo never, ever asked and even when I was asking her for the number, it took her six months to give it to me.
“I finally got it and I rang through to the donation co-ordinator at Canterbury and they send you a form.”
Realising it was a huge step to take, it took him two months to get the ball rolling.
What followed was 20 months of appointments and tests until the pair arrived at Guy’s Hospital in London for surgery earlier this month, on Wednesday, October 9.
Mr Brown said: “People ask me why I’ve done it and I say they should have been on the end of the phone when I told Jojo.
"It was an easy decision to help Jojo and one I will never regret" - Stewart Brown
“When I found out we had been successful back in July, I phoned her and said I had bad news.
“I said, ‘I’m going to be one kidney down’.
“She just burst into tears.”
Mr Brown continued: “But it was an easy decision to help Jojo and one I will never regret. I’ve experienced for a few days of what kidney patients sometimes experience their whole lives. It’s opened my eyes up to how brave Jo is.
“From the outside, looking at her and seeing that she works and has a social life, you wouldn’t know that she was going through all of this.
“Now, we both want to raise awareness that you don’t need to be a direct match to be a donor.”
The UK Living Kidney Sharing Scheme
The scheme has been active since 2012 and earlier this year marked its 1000th transplant.
Mr Brown said: “I don’t think many people know about the sharing scheme. I didn’t before this process.
“It’s actually worked out better as Jojo’s got a better kidney than the one I could have given her, and I’ve helped more people.
“For anyone thinking of become a donor, I’d say do it. Other than the initial pain from the surgery, it’s just discomfort and it lasts for a couple of months.”
The pair continue to rest at their homes following surgery.
They have been invited by the hospital to speak about their experiences with other patients in the future.