A patient cared for by the renal department at St George’s is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his kidney transplant.

Villy, 72, from West Byfleet, is the longest surviving kidney transplant patient on record at St George’s and one of the longest in the UK, after receiving the gift of life from his sister.

At four years old, Villy lived in Denmark when an accident led doctors to discover his kidneys were failing.

Villy. Credit: Jerry Syder

Villy said: “My mother was doing the weekly washing in the basement of our house, long before washing machines were in general use, and as she picked up a bucket of boiling water from the cauldron I ran towards her, tipping water out of the bucket and scalding my head.”

“My mother immediately picked me up and put me on the back of her bike and rode about half a mile to the nearest hospital. We didn’t have a car, so this was the only way to go. It was probably quicker than calling for an ambulance.

“At the hospital they took a urine sample and discovered my kidneys were slowly shrinking. My parents were told that my life expectancy was only 21.”

Villy’s health continued to deteriorate and in 1969 aged 21, he was told that his only option was to have an immediate transplant, which doctors said he had a 32% chance of surviving.

Villy and his sister Karin. Credit: Jerry Syder

Villy said: “Luckily I come from a large family, two sisters and four brothers. So the chance that one of my siblings could help me was increased. They were all tested but it was my sister, Karin, who was the ideal match. She was only 19 years old at the time and bravely agreed to donate one of her kidneys to me.

“After a seven-hour operation I felt that my life had really begun.  I felt instantly happy and relieved. After 28 days I was ready to go home, which was early as most kidney patients at that time were hospitalised for much longer.

“I’m extremely thankful for my sister’s generous gift to me, which is made even more poignant by the fact that her daughter also suffered from kidney failure and received a kidney transplant from an unknown donor five years ago.

“When you’re young, I was 21 and my sister 19, you don’t have the same fear. My sister jokes that she wouldn’t have gone through the ordeal if she’d known that the odds were stacked against us!”

Villy, who had his surgery at Aarhus County Hospital in Denmark, has been looked after by the renal team at St George’s for the last 25 years. Today he visits the transplant clinic every three months for a check-up and also attends a clinic where his skin is checked for cancer.

Villy said: “I’m so grateful to the team at St George’s who’ve looked after me so well. To have reached 50 years with my transplant is an incredible milestone – not bad for an operation I was given a 32% chance of surviving!

“The years have taken their toll on my health, however. I’ve had two heart attacks, a quadruple heart bypass and four areas of skin cancer removed – but I’m still alive. I apply sun lotion daily, wear a hat in the sun and try to remain positive.

“There are three things one should remember: eat well, exercise and try to have a good night’s sleep.”

Villy with his sister Karin and wife Janet. Credit: Jerry Syder

Dr Joyce Popoola, Consultant Nephrologist and Lead Transplant Physician for Renal Services, said: “The average lifespan of a kidney transplant from a deceased donor is 11-14 years, and 20-24 from a live donor. So for Villy to have reached 50 years with his transplanted kidney is fantastic. His story showcases the importance of organ donation and the incredible impact it has on lives.”

St George’s Hospital Charity are currently fundraising for a new state of the art renal department. Over 1,300 patients with kidney failure are treated each year at St George’s. But right now, many of these patients are receiving treatment in cramped, unsuitable conditions contained in temporary trailers in a car park.

To improve patients’ experience, we need to raise £1 million by March 2020.

To donate or to find out more about the campaign visit: https://www.stgeorgeshospitalcharity.org.uk/current-appeals/renal

To find out more about St George’s Hospital Charity visit: https://www.stgeorgeshospitalcharity.org.uk/

Notes to editors

For press enquiries, please contact Sophia Alipour, Media Officer, via sophia.alipour@stgeorges.nhs.uk or 020 8725 2185.