Kidney operation helped to save his life
A man who needed a kidney transplant has backed plans for a soft opt-out system of organ donation in Scotland.
Alan Docherty received a new kidney in 2014 and hopes a new system could help save the lives of others.
A Cambuslang man whose life was saved by a kidney transplant has hailed the decision of the Scottish Government to introduce a soft opt-out system of organ donation.
Alan Docherty, 42, of Macarthur Wynd, was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy in his early 20s.
This kidney disorder occurs when an antibody called immunoglobulin A (IgA) lodges in kidneys. This results in inflammation that, over time, may hamper the kidneys’ ability to filter waste, excess water and electrolytes from blood.
In essence the immune system does not recognise the kidneys as part of the body and starts killing them.
Although his condition remained manageable for a number of years, Alan’s kidneys eventually failed and he required 18 hours of dialysis a week from the age of 37.
That was until August 21, 2014, when he finally received the news that a donor had been found.
Just weeks after his operation, Alan backed legislation proposed by Labour MSP Anne McTaggart for an opt-out system which would allow parts of an adult’s body to be used in transplants in the absence of express permission, although the family’s wishes would still be taken into account.
That was defeated at the time in the Scottish Parliament, but after a consultation period during which 82 per cent of respondents backed the plans, new legislation will now be brought forward.
Alan said: “For people who are still on the transplant list it is a good thing and even most people I know think it should be an opt out system. It actually costs the NHS more money to keep people on dialysis, as I was, so if you can get more people on the transplant list it will save money and give people a better life.
“Nothing moves fast in politics so I’m not surprised it’s taken this time. Some people strongly disagree with it but they still have the option to opt out.
“Maybe people are unsure and don’t think about things like this, especially younger people. I was 22/23 when I was diagnosed and it wasn’t something I’d previously thought of.”
When Alan was first diagnosed, his kidneys were working at 75 per cent of full capacity.
However, it was a number of years until the organs actually failed.
He tried to hold down his job as a lorry driver while undergoing six hours of dialysis, three times a week, first at the Royal and than at the Victoria Infirmary.
The strain also took its toll on his
family – wife Zasha, 41, and their four daughters, Natasha, 22, Chloe, 20, Meghan, 14 and five-year-old Zowie.
Alan said: “Before I started dialysis everything was normal. But the six months before it I was tired all the time and started to show symptoms.
“The first year of dialysis was murder. I was always fatigued and I was having to go into hospital all the time while holding down a job.
“That surprised people, they thought because I was on dialysis I couldn’t be working, but when you have a mortgage to pay and four children you don’t have a choice.
“I would work for half a day and then go into hospital for dialysis. Once I got home I was just sleepy.
“It annoyed me that dialysis was not considered a disability, so you didn’t get a blue badge for the Royal. The parking was only for four hours yet I was in for six hours so you always had to risk a ticket.”
Alan’s road to recovery was not a simple one. While a kidney from a live donor can be running normally after a few weeks, Alan’s came from someone who had died, meaning the journey was a lot longer. But it has transformed his life and he believes others will now benefit thanks to the opt-out system.
Alan said: “The first couple of years after my transplant were rough for me. Some people are back to normal within six months but I was one of the unlucky ones. It’s only been in the past year that I have felt the benefits. I had to be cut open another three times and had other operations.
“Mine was not straightforward but now I am back working full time and we can plan weekends away and holidays, which we couldn’t do before when I was on dialysis.
“I still take tablets, about 14 a day for the rest of my life. That’s the downside, but I need them to keep the kidney working.
“I was getting to the stage where I was so bad they just had to get me a transplant, maybe just a couple more weeks and I wouldn’t be here.
“It’s made a massive difference. You don’t realise how much of a life changer it is, not just me getting a kidney transplant but I assume for people with heart and liver transplants it’s the same.”
I am back working full time and we can plan weekends away and holidays Alan Docherty
Life changing Alan in hospital after his kidney transplant with daughters Chloe and Natasha
Family man Alan Docherty pictured just weeks after his kidney transplant in 2014 with wife Zasha, and daughters Meghan, Chloe, and Zowie