20 September 2023

Selfless Angler is back fishing just three weeks after saving a stranger’s life with a kidney donation.

Angler Leigh has already won a local fishing competition three weeks after donating his kidney to a stranger.

Leigh Harrison, 52, made the monumental decision to donate his kidney after seeing a friend online suffering from kidney dialysis. Leigh was unfortunately not a direct match with his friend, so he made the selfless decision to join a non-directed donor chain, resulting in him saving the life of a stranger in July of this year. He said:

“Since I was little, I’ve always wanted to do something along the lines of organ donation. I’ve carried a donor card since I was legally allowed to do so and given blood regularly for the same reason. When I was a young manager, one of my colleagues was also a donor recipient. He was brilliant and was extremely grateful for the extra life he was given. I really valued getting to know him and there is no doubt that his experiences left a lasting impression on me all those years ago.”

Leigh, who has six children and luckily no serious medical conditions or history of kidney disease in the family, was aware of kidney disease and the significant problem it can pose for many people.

“It’s like a quiet secret that not many people talk about, but it is highly prevalent among more people than we realise. Having seen the effects up close and personal these last few years, I also know just what a horrible and debilitating disease it is.”

“Initially, I wanted to help someone I knew, if possible, but I was also prepared to consider donating altruistically if the occasion arose. It just so happened that someone I knew of was just about to start dialysis and they had posted about it on social media.”

Leigh contacted them that day and expressed his interest in donating his kidney.

“They were pleasantly shocked but immediately referred me to the Sorby Renal unit at the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield, keen to reiterate that they didn’t want to influence any decision that I might have to make.”

Leigh contacted the unit who referred him for medical health checks and a test to see if he was compatible.

“I was fit enough, and had very healthy kidneys, but was not compatible as a direct match. I was then asked if I would consider being a non-directed donor that could be matched in a chain. This would help my friend get the kidney he needed, but also potentially help many other people get theirs too. It seemed like a no-brainer to me, so I said yes straight away.”

Following several matching runs and lots of physical and psychological evaluations, Leigh’s operation was scheduled for 5th July 2023.

“I was admitted to the renal unit the day before my operation and was thoroughly informed on every part of what was about to happen the next day. The same happened the next morning, and I could still have backed out at any time if I had been so inclined. The thought never entered my head, but the option was always there and I was extremely calm going down to theatre. Mainly because I really trusted the people and the process I had gone through already.”

Leigh’s operation went smoothly and he was discharged from the Northern General Hospital three days after his operation.

“My recovery has gone unbelievably well. The first few days, I knew that I’d had a major operation, but I was walking after 24 hours, and the pain was far less than I expected. Exactly one week after the operation I could walk as far as I wanted and do most tasks I needed to do. I was allowed to go fishing again too, with some strict rules of no heavy lifting, so I had to go with someone for safety reasons and to lift my gear.”

Just three weeks after Leigh’s operation he was back fishing and competing in a local competition.

“I won a big match on the River Trent, catching 47lbs of bream, one of the biggest wins I’ve ever had in my angling career!”

Since then, Leigh has commended the care he received at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and has been keen to encourage others to consider joining the organ donation register.

“All the staff have been absolutely brilliant; you couldn’t wish for better. Everything is utterly professional and absolutely world class and the whole process has been so good I cannot really put it into words. I’ve had massive health benefits as well, which sounds a bit strange when you’ve given an organ away, but it’s absolutely true. I’ve had to get fit for the operation, lose a little bit of weight, eat healthily, cut my alcohol consumption and mentally prepare for it too.”

“After my children being born, it’s by far the best thing I’ve ever done in my life, not just because I have helped two people and possibly more get a donation with just one of my kidneys; it’s also benefitted my own health and wellbeing. I also have a lifelong friend who is now recovering well after his transplant, and we shall have many fishing adventures together in the future, as we had before the operation.”

“If you’re healthy, have the time and inclination, have no history of kidney disease in your family; then please potentially help save many lives by donating one of your healthy kidneys and becoming a non-directed altruistic donor. You might not just save one life, but many!”


PHOTO: Leigh Harrison – “11lbs 2ozs barbel float fishing on a rod that I designed!”

Please register your decision to donate if you'd like to become an organ donor here: https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/register-your-decision/donate/?

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