A HUMANIST nurse has become the first woman in the North East to donate one of her organs to a stranger while still alive.
Kate Clarkson, 58, has given up one of her kidneys to save the life of a man she has never met.
Now she is urging others to sign up to the Organ Donor Register.
Mrs Clarkson, who lives at Ordley in Hexhamshire, Northumberland, and is a regular blood donor, told how she had been reading on the internet about becoming a living organ donor.
In October 2010, the humanist celebrant, who has performed weddings and funerals for 20 years, was asked to speak at a commemoration service for transplant patients and their families.
“I’ve been a nurse for 40 years and I thought I was hardened to these sorts of things, but this service was the most heart-rending experience that I’ve ever had,” said Mrs Clarkson, a health visitor with County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust.
“Listening to those people who had lost relatives or who were waiting for organs to save their lives was unbelievably moving.
“I had been reading about becoming a living donor and I was so moved that day that I decided if I could help, I would. I just thought ‘I’ve got a spare kidney that I don’t even need and people are dying every single day waiting for one.’ So if it was possible, I was going to do it.”
Such donations only became legal thee years ago and there are currently thought to be around 100 cases nationally.
After contacting transplant specialists, Mrs Clarkson, who is married with two grown-up children, underwent a string of screenings, tests and interviews spanning nearly a year to ensure her fitness.
“Every step of the way I was asked if I was still sure about going ahead,” said Mrs Clarkson, who has previously worked as a senior nurse in child protection in Northumberland and a lecturer in health and social care at Newcastle College.
“I only told family, close friends, and colleagues and no one tried to stop me. Most people just said ‘good for you’. I think they knew that it was something I just had to do.
“How could you have the chance to save someone’s life and walk away?”