The curious case of a 68-year-old woman with a 100-year-old kidney
THIS BRITISH WOMAN LIVES WITH A KIDNEY THAT WAS DONATED TO HER BY HER 100-YEAR-OLD MOTHER WHILST SHE WAS STILL ALIVE, TO TREAT THE RENAL INSUFFICIENCY THAT SHE WAS DIAGNOSED WITH WHEN SHE WAS 25.
The case of Sue Westhead was headline news in the British press this summer. This 68-year-old woman who lives in the north of England was 25 when they diagnosed her with renal insufficiency in 1973. When they told her that the only way she would survive was through a kidney transplant, her mother Ann Metcalfe, who then was 57 years of age, did not think twice and donated one of her organs.
The curiousness of the case is that currently the doctors calculate that a transplanted organ can be functional for between 15 or 20 years. Although these days this is now an established technique, back then when this operation was carried out, a transplant from a living donor was quite rare and only between 30 and 40% of the organs lasted 5 years. However, more than four decades after the operation, the kidney that her mother donated to her whilst she was alive, is going to reach 101 years of age this month in November.
Sue assured the press that this longevity is because the kidney comes, “from good stock” and that “I have to make sure that I take the appropriate medication on time and I am careful with my weight, but apart from this, I live a perfectly normal life”. “You have to take on life as it comes and not become a victim or wrap yourself in cotton wool”.
According to the latest information available from the National Transplant Organisation, in 2014, a total of 423 renal transplants from living donors were carried out (and more than 2,250 from deceased donors). 64% of the living donors were women and 60% of the recipients were men. Almost a third of the living donors were the partner or husband or wife of the recipient, 24% were brothers or sisters, 16% their mothers and 10% their fathers. In the 19 cases where the recipients were children (between 2 and 15 years old), 63% of the donors were their mothers.