Transplant survivor Andy puts pen to paper to write 'My Kidney and Me' book

Transplant survivor giving talk

Transplant survivor Andy - Credit: Submitted

Andy Demaine is probably one of the longest surviving kidney transplant patients in Great Britain.

At the age of 12 he had life-saving surgery. He has now written a book about his incredible life and what he has given back to the world of medicine.

Andy was interviewed by me in the BBC studios

He says: "‘I’d been taken acutely ill on July 7, 1969, whilst swimming for my school in Torquay at the old Marine Spa.

Old picture of boy and dog

Andy during his Torquay schoolboy days - Credit: Submitted

"Horrible red spots all over me, got sent to Torbay Hospital and then to Exeter.  Within a matter of days, I was on dialysis and then in acute renal failure.

"When I say dialysis, it was fairly rudimentary and went into a coma. I woke up on the morning that Neil Armstrong was walking on the moon.

"I was lucky to live in Torquay as most renal units refused to treat anyone under the age of 18. If I had been living elsewhere, I wouldn’t be here today.

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"At the time, treatment for renal disease was crude and experimental. Blood access sites through the skin for haemodialysis became regularly blocked with clots that required painful removal, you were on a salt free, low protein starvation diet.

"Low blood pressure was a regular occurrence, often causing fainting on standing. My schoolwork really suffered, attending Torquay Boys’ Grammar was impossible. A year later I had my father’s kidney, that was 1970.

"That lasted until 1974 when it finally rejected. My current kidney was on November  in 1974 and has worked perfectly ever since. It is a devastating condition, I still have to take immune suppressive drugs every day.

"The message is have optimism, there are always better times ahead. I used to be on the dialysis machines two or three times a week but things are so much better now. There have been huge advances.

He is now Professor Andy Demaine.

He says: "I worked endlessly on my A levels hoping to get a place in Medical School. I got the grades but no place. Instead, I went to Leeds University to read Biochemistry. I had an amazing three years. No one knew I’d had a transplant, I just wanted to be normal like everyone else. It was the first time I could drink beer! I rode a large motor bike, life was great! 

"However, I couldn’t get away from the need to be involved with understanding my disease. Consequently, my first job was as a tissue typist at Guy’s Hospital. As well as being on call for kidney transplants my manager, and lifelong mentor, Professor Ken Welsh, offered me a research project that quickly developed into my PhD, looking at the genetics of renal disease.

Old picture of doctor

Andy when he was at Guy's Hospital - Credit: Submitted

"I obtained a RD Lawrence fellowship from Diabetes UK to study diabetic kidney disease and moved to King’s College and had my own research group.

"!In 1993 we moved to Plymouth to set up a new medical school. 

That is an incredible life, and it will soon be in the book.

"The book is out soon. I have got pages of notes to go through but we aiming to launch on July 7. It is called My kidney and Me, My Half Century Journey Overcoming Kidney Failure. We will launch it locally."