Granddad's gift of life to granddaughter

A "FANTASTIC" grandfather who has given his two-year-old granddaughter the gift of life this Christmas has issued a plea for more people to become organ donors.

By Sharon Asplin

A "FANTASTIC" grandfather who has given his two-year-old granddaughter the gift of life this Christmas has issued a plea for more people to become organ donors.

Battling Hope Fletcher, who will be three on Tuesday, is now eating and drinking properly for the first time in her life thanks to the donation of a kidney from granddad Roger Lees – an astonishing 59 years her senior.

The brave tot, who was born prematurely with underdeveloped kidneys, had been forced to endure 14 hours of dialysis a night until her transplant.


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But now her progress is coming on in leaps and bounds and she is even able to share a bedroom for the first time with her twin sister Eve at their home in Galleywood, Chelmsford.

Mum and Dad Matt and Beth, who were the wrong blood type to donate their own kidneys, are now looking forward to enjoying a real family Christmas together.

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Mr Lees, of nearby Stock, a retired NHS trust manager, said last night: "I knew fairly early on I was the right blood group but they ideally wanted a younger person but there is such a shortage of donors that after six months I volunteered."

He had to undergo rigorous tests to ensure he was fit enough and in October he was given the all-clear and the date set.

"I think the thing I find so delightful is that already she has so much more energy than she had before," he said.

"She used to be so shattered by the end of the day because she had not eaten anything but using her tastebuds now is a whole new experience for her.

"I would encourage anyone to come forward as a donor. There is no real terror in donating an organ and I am just thrilled I have been able to do this for Hope."

His call was backed by Hope's father, a-33-year-old PE teacher.

He said: "Hope was very nearly at the end of her dialysis life and, even though she did not have a rare blood group, she was waiting for 12 months without a sniff of a donation and I know she was very near the top of the list.

"Like most people, before this happened I had no idea what your kidneys did and Hope will probably need four or five transplants in her lifetime as each kidney lasts about 10 to 15 years.

"I know Hope's is a lovely story but we are really keen to use our experiences to heighten awareness of the shortage of donors."

He added: "Roger has been fantastic. To do something like that at his age shows he is a great chap but he just wanted to do it for Hope and give her a fair crack at life."

The whole family are also full of praise for the "brilliant" staff at the City Hospital in Nottingham, which specialises in treating children with kidney failure and was where the transplant took place on December 3.

Soon after Hope was born, it became apparent she was having kidney problems and she was transferred immediately to Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge. She was later moved to the Nottingham hospital for treatment and last November, when she was old enough and weighed enough, was put on a waiting list for a transplant.

While she waited, she was forced to endure 14 hours a night dialysis. Kidneys control the appetite and little Hope had to be fed through a tube into her stomach every evening because she was never able to eat during the day. She slept fitfully in her parents' room and was generally sick four or five times every night.

Mr Lees, who was out of hospital within days, insists he is feeling fine, except for a little soreness, and has even felt well enough to put up the Christmas decorations.

Hope was allowed home after 10 days but still has to undergo twice weekly check ups in Nottingham. The family will remain quietly at home over Christmas as Hope is potentially still quite vulnerable as she takes drugs designed to boost her immune system.

For further information, contact The National Kidney Research Fund, Registered Office, Kings Chambers, Priestgate, Peterborough, PE1 1FG, call 01733 704650 or log on to www.nkrf.org.uk

The EADT has been running the Sign for Life campaign, urging people to become organ donors. Call the NHS organ donor hotline on 0845 6060 400, or you can log on to www.uktransplant.org.uk

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