A British father has received a life-saving kidney from his cousin in America - after he wrote about his plight on Facebook.
John Williamson, 42, from Michigan, and Andy Williamson, 44, are now recovering in hospital after undergoing the major transplant surgery. Andy had been documenting his struggle with polycystic kidney disease on Facebook and used an app to update his status and treatments. John - who had only met his first cousin twice before - spotted Andy was using the app to regularly check-in to hospital and realised he was on dialysis.
John Williamson (left) from Michigan, USA, has donated a kidney to his cousin Andy Williamson after hearing about his plight on Facebook
John, who works in advertising, got in touch and offered his organ for the transplant. The cousins then met for the first time in 33 years when john flew over in June to see if he was a suitable match for the operation. Thankfully he was, and the three-hour transplant op has now gone ahead at Southmead Hospital in Bristol.
Speaking today (Nov. 19), Andy, of Ashburton, Devon, said: 'We didn’t actually know each other that well, having grown up on different sides of the Atlantic, but we became friends on Facebook a couple of years ago. 'John saw that I was in need of a new kidney, and offered to be a living donor. It’s one of those things where it’s difficult to find the words. It’s a mixture of gratitude and just thankfulness that he’s come forward to help. I know from my previous transplant the difference it makes to me having a healthy working kidney. It’s just indescribable.'
The operation is said to have gone well and the donated kidney has been transferred successfully
John said he had been moved to help after seeing pictures of Andy with his three-year-old daughter Doro. Speaking from his hospital bed, he said: 'As expected I’m a little sore, but in good spirits, I’m glad I did it. Andy looks great, he has some recovery to do but he’ll be in tip top shape before long. I’m confident I will recover properly. I feel it has been very worthwhile and the benefits far outweigh the risks. It was something I felt I wanted to do because he’s family. In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice. I have two young daughters, and I know what energy it takes to look after them. I wanted to be able to help Andy get a new lease of life, not just for himself, but for his family, and his daughter in particular. By monitoring Andy’s situation - seeing his updates and seeing him check into certain health clinics during his dialysis I felt a connection between the two. It was just a feeling in me that told me it was something I should do.'
Andy said: 'I am increasingly realising that an organ donation has a much wider impact than just for the recipient. It's also about the lives of their families and the people around them. It really is a tremendous gift.'
Andy, a musician, was forced to have dialysis every day after a donated kidney failed in 2011. His condition is a hereditary disease, which his mother, who also went on dialysis, also suffered from. He was diagnosed at 21 but only started showing symptoms in his 30s and finally went on dialysis at 38. Father-of-one Andy started using phone app ‘Four Square’ on his iPhone in December, which allows users to check-in to, visited places. Andy said he was playing around with the app while at hospital one day, which alerted his Facebook friends, including his cousin John, that he was on dialysis again.
Family matters: American cousin John is 3rd from left (in yellow) while Andy is on his right. Andy's dad Ron is standing with baby on back, while John's day is standing far right
Dr Najib Kadi, who completed the keyhole surgery, known as nephrectomy, described it as 'complex'. He said: 'This is a complex surgery, you need to handle the kidney very carefully because it is being used for transplantation. The donors are very precious, like any other patient, but particularly because they are people who are putting themselves through surgery to make someone else better.' John’s dad, also called John, was brother of Andy’s father Ron and was two of four brothers who grew up in Glasgow, Scotland. During the early 1960s, John got married to Marie who said a condition of their marriage was to move abroad to get away from her mother. John and Marie moved to Canada where Andy’s cousin, John, who was one of four children, was born in 1970.
Family tree: The Williamson brothers, (L-R) John (American John's father) James, Bill and Ron (Andy's father) grew up in Glasgow
The cousins first met when Andy, then aged 11, and his family went to stay in Canada with John, then aged nine, and his family in 1979.
John later moved to America with his family in 1981 where he has stayed ever since. The pair did not have any contact for more than 20 years until 2003, when they met at Andy’s uncle and John’s father’s second wedding - but the pair only spoke briefly. Around two years ago they befriended each other on Facebook and used the social networking site to send messages and view each other’s photographs.
Andy, married to Suzy, 42, said: 'I am increasingly realising that an organ donation has a much wider impact than just for the recipient. It’s also about the lives of their families and the people around them. It really is a tremendous gift. 'I guess blood is thicker than water but I know he’s also done it because of my daughter.' Transplant surgeon Andrew Weale said: “It’s pretty amazing that, at the start of the process, this kidney was in another person. It’s been removed and has been on ice for an hour and a half and now we’re putting it into his cousin. The kidney has gone a lovely pink colour, and it’s producing urine already, it’s wonderful.'
Source: Daily Mail UK