As an editor, Bob often ran stories appealing to readers to carry organ donor cards. But nothing brought home the need to think of others as much as Michele’s own emergency.
In her case, however, there was a twist in the tale – the donor was her sister, Linda.
On Friday, the story was given full coverage by the Satchwells’ local paper, the Cambridge Evening News – which Bob edited for almost 15 years until 1998.
Bob used his Society of Editors’ contacts to get wider publicity for the story and, more importantly, for the cause. He contacted Ged Henderson, editor of Linda’s local paper, the Blackpool Evening Gazette, which carried the story on Pages 1 and 3, and Anglia TV, which ran an item and passed it to Granada. Michele, Bob, Linda and Linda’s husband, Mike, took part in an hour-long live broadcast on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire with presenter Chris South – Bob’s assistant editor at the News.
“We wanted to do it as a story so that it would encourage other people who might be in the same position of becoming a live donor, and also to remind people about the need to carry donor cards, because of the huge shortage of kidneys,” said Bob (51).
His wife discovered she had kidney failure after the birth of her youngest child, Ellie, now 15. Her health began to deteriorate in 1995 and last year, she began dialysis and gave up her job as a school spcial-needs assistant.
One of her kidneys had been damaged in childhood and was not working. The other had grown to twice the size to try to compensate but had become infected. There is a one-in-four chance of a good match with an organ from a sibling – and Linda did not hesistate in offering one of her kidneys.
Twelve months of tests followed, with Linda travelling from her Lancashire home to Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridgeshire, where the kidney donation and transplant operations took place over five hours in adjoining operating theatres.
Bob virtually lived at the hospital for the week that his wife and sister-in-law were there.
“Having watched the development of the transplant programme as editor of the Cambridge Evening News, it was fascinating to be involved, even though I was only a bit-part player in this drama – the hand-holder in chief, if you like,” he said.
“There was this incredible mixture of frontline science and sheer human emotion. The two things mixing together is quite incredible. There’s the worry of any major operation and there’s the fact that someone who’s perfectly healthy is giving up part of her body and go through a serious operation. It’s an absolutely priceless gift.”
He said it was clear that all the hospital staff involved, from surgeons to tea ladies, recognised what a precious gift they were dealing with and took a personal interest in making sure all went well.
Michele (52)told the Cambridge paper that she felt “reborn”.
“I can’t believe anyone would donate an organ for me,” she said. “Linda and I have become so close. We always were before but now I feel ‘attached’ to her in some way.”
Linda (57) urged other people to donate a kidney if they were able to.
“There’s not a lot of pain and the testing isn’t too difficult either, and the benefits are tremendous.
“It was great that I could do this because, if Michele had cancer, for example, I wouldn’t have been able to help.”
The last word belongs to Michele’s son, Andrew (30). He phoned Linda after the op’ to say: “Thanks for giving us back our mum.”
©Northcliffe Newspapers 2000
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