Daughter donates kidney to mum in transplant operation at St George’s
Jane Altneu is the first patient at St George’s to receive a kidney transplant since the hospital’s transplant programme was re-started last month.
Jane, 71, from Wimbledon, received a donor kidney from her daughter Emily Altneu, 34, in a transplant operation carried out by surgeons at St George’s in February. Non-urgent solid organ transplants had been temporarily paused earlier this year for the safety of patients as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Jane needed a transplant due to a condition called polycystic kidney disease, a genetic disease she inherited from her mother. Over time, the disease causes cysts to grow on the kidneys, causing them to enlarge, lose function and ultimately fail completely.
Jane had managed her condition successfully throughout her life, but as her kidney function continued to deteriorate, her doctors recommended a transplant. However, a temporary pause on transplants being undertaken meant that Jane only had her operation last month. Transplant patients are immunosuppressed post-surgery, so the risk of Covid-19 infection is greatly increased.
Jane, who worked as a teacher but had to retire early due to her condition, said: ‘’I’ve always led a really active life, and the problems with my kidneys haven’t always held me back. But I had to stop doing the things I love – such as playing tennis – and this is due to my kidneys gradually losing function. In the past few years, I’ve had to break up the days with naps due to exhaustion. I’ve heard kidney disease described as the silent killer and I would say that’s very accurate. You can just achieve less and less until you can’t do anything except rest.”
Jane’s daughter Emily, who works as an actress and Pilates teacher, had no hesitation about donating a kidney for her mum.
She said: ‘As a family, we gradually learned more about my mum’s condition when we were adults – and my brother, sister and I all got tested because it is a genetic disease. Fortunately, none of us have the disease – and I was therefore really keen to help my mum by donating my organ.”
Both Jane and Emily were admitted to hospital on 23 February, with the transplant going ahead the following day. Both left hospital shortly after, and Jane is amazed at the difference her daughter’s donated organ has already made; her kidney function has increased from 6% to 90% since the operation.
She said: ‘’It is genuinely amazing – I already have so much more energy, and I’m eating all my favourite foods that were previously prohibited pre transplant. It’s incredible – and I feel so very, very lucky.’’
Emily is recovering and has nothing but praise for the transplant team at St George’s, and the many staff who run the transplant programme:
‘There were innumerable checks on my health and the gravitas of donating a kidney was made very clear to me. I encountered many specialists all of whom were incredibly experienced and knowledgeable. We are so grateful to everyone – the renal team is such a strong special team. Their care is truly spectacular.
“The surgeons were just outstanding and we were blown away by their skill. We were also made to feel so safe even with our operation taking place during a global pandemic. It was so obvious to us that we were being treated by the best.”
Mr Abbas Ghazanfar, Consultant Transplant Surgeon and Clinical Lead for Transplant Surgery at St George’s, said: “The past 12 months have been so difficult for patients awaiting transplants, and it has made an already stressful situation even more challenging.
‘’We are so pleased to have re-started our kidney transplant programme again – and our focus now is on making sure we get patients treated, so we can improve their quality of life in the way that only transplantation can.’’
“I am also thankful to patients like Jane – and brave people like Emily – who have been waiting so patiently for our programme to restart; their support for what our teams are doing is so important.’’