The remarkable story of a Rochdale family shattered by kidney failure
PUBLISHED: 23:22 04 June 2012 | UPDATED: 21:27 20 February 2013
Selfless actions by two devoted women have helped save members of a Rochdale family. Emma Mayoh reports PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIRSTY THOMPSON
The print version of this article appeared in the June 2012 issue of Lancashire Life
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Many families make sacrifices for each other. But one Rochdale family has gone further than most they donated their own kidneys.
Back in 2003 Maggie Moorhouse gave one of her kidneys to her husband David. In January this year his younger brother, Andrew, received an organ from Deborah Howarth, his goddaughter.
It was a lifeline. Kidney disease first hit the family when dad Brian was diagnosed in the early 60s. It was the job of wife Pam as well as raising a family of four to be his nurse and help with his treatment. This meant everything from cooking a specialist low protein diet to helping Brian through gruelling dialysis. After two years, he underwent a kidney transplant from a deceased stranger but because anti-rejection drugs were less effective back then, Brian lost his fight for life in July 1967.
Pam, who since has raised thousands of pounds for Kidney Research UK, said: It was a very difficult time but in a situation like this, with four children, you just have to cope and do the best for your family. He was a wonderful man and we were lucky to have had him.
It was a few years after their fathers death that David and Andrew were diagnosed with the disease. They then spent several years with the ticking bomb of deteriorating kidneys. It was the eldest, David, who first showed signs of needing a transplant.
The 53-year-old said: You are living in the fear that, after seeing your dad go through the things he did, you could be facing the same. It is a difficult thing to consider.
My dad died when he was 43 so you also have this milestone in your head. We both felt that way. It was a big thing for both of us.
Fortunately, groundbreaking research meant treatment had vastly improved. Although David had to take a cocktail of 64 tablets every day following his transplant at Guys Hospital, his body retained his new kidney and for Andrew, who underwent his surgery at Manchester Royal Infirmary, the medication and treatment had become even more advanced and less aggressive.
David, now living in Kent, had a straight swap with Maggie but it was more complicated for his brother. Despite several offers from family and friends, no suitable match was found for Andrew. His wife, Rosie, and Deborah signed up to a paired donation scheme where strangers can be matched with others willing to donate a kidney.
A match for Deborah, who as a child spent her summer holidays selling items to raise money for kidney research, came up first. Although Andrew tried to discourage her, she remained determined to make the swap.
The 41-year-old, a food technology teacher at Oldham Hulme Grammar School, said: I wanted to do it because I was helping out someone who is very important to me. I didnt have to think about it.
I was brought up to believe that if you can do something to help someone then you do it. Life is too short to waste time. If I had three kidneys, Id do it again in a heartbeat. The paired scheme allowed us to get Andrew the kidney he needed so much, which is just amazing.
David and Andrew could not be more humbled and thankful for what the two women have done. Before Andrew had his transplant he had endured years of low confidence. The 51-year-old even had job offers retracted once employers discovered he had kidney disease. The transplant has restored his self-esteem and his ability to live life to the full.
He said: The thought of having this disease had preyed on my mind for the past 30 years and always held me back. It is my family and Deborahs positivity that got me through the transplant. I feel better than I have done for years and that is all down to her.
She behaves like shes just given me a bag of sweets. But really shes given me another chance at life.
The incredible generosity she has shown and the treatment I got in hospital is fantastic. Its given me this amazing outlook on life and made me excited about things I want to do in the future. I dont think Deborah or Maggie realise what an incredible impact they have had.
The Moorhouse family will host a special dinner this month at Bella Vista restaurant in Rochdale. The event, which is being organised by Pam, is being held to raise more money and awareness of Kidney Research UK. But it is also to thank Maggie and Deborah for their extraordinary gifts and the medical teams at Guys Hospital and Manchester Royal Infirmary who have helped the family since Brian was first diagnosed.
Pam said: Doing this lunch will bring together all of the very special people who have helped us. There are so many to be grateful to and we want to say thank you to them all.
The research that has been done and put into practice since Brian had kidney disease is incredible. We want to raise money to help continue this work and also make more people aware of it.
For more information on Kidney Research UK and the paired donation scheme visit kidneyresearchuk.org.