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Kidney transplant mother is urging more Scots to join the organ donor register​

A-MOTHER-OF-FOUR whose life was transformed by a kidney transplant on New Year’s Day has backed a call for more Scots to become organ donors. KIRSTEN HARROLD was diagnosed with kidney failure at the age of 16 before being given a new kidney more than two decades ago on January 1 1990. She had been out celebrating Hogmanay with friends when she got the call to say a suitable kidney had become available.

The transplant was a success and that summer she met her partner Pete, with the couple going on to have four children.

Twenty-three years after the operation that changed her life, Ms Harrold is backing a call for more people to join the NHS Organ Donor Register. Already 40% of Scots have signed up, the highest proportion in the UK. Public Health Minister Michael Matheson urged those not on the register to consider making it their New Year’s resolution.

Ms Harrold, from Portobello, told how the transplant “changed the lives of my family and gave me the chance to have a family of my own”. She said: “If I’d still been on dialysis, I wouldn’t have been able to sustain four pregnancies or be fit and well to raise small children. “My transplant allowed me to make decisions and choices that everyone else takes for granted, such as working full-time and having kids. “We’re a really active family and my kids wouldn’t be leading the full lives they have if it wasn’t for my transplant and my excellent kidney function. “It’s not just the recipient that benefits from the NHS Organ Donor Register, it’s everyone around them which is why it’s so important that people

sign up to help those waiting. I’m very grateful to have been given the opportunity to have this life and my family. I always will be.”

Ms Harrold, mother to Peter, 13, Matthew, eight and five-year-old twin girls Charis and Gracie, recalled how before being diagnosed with kidney failure she felt tired and unwell, suffered from headaches and had been fainting. “I’d been back and forward to the GP but by the time I reached 16, I weighed around five stone and was really ill,” she said. “After having bloods taken, I was admitted to hospital immediately. “After being diagnosed with kidney failure she was put on medication, before having to start regular dialysis sessions at about the age of 18, which involved her going to hospital three times a week. “As a dialysis patient I was quite well but compared to any normal 18-year-old, I was really pretty ill.” At the same time as she was put on dialysis, Ms Harrold was also assessed to go on the transplant list. The call to say a suitable kidney had been found came on December 31 1989. “Everything went really well with the transplant and my recovery. It was amazing. I didn’t know how ill I was until I felt better,” she said. In July 1990 she met her partner and as their relationship developed, the couple considered the possibility of a family.

“Having a child wasn’t a decision we took lightly,” Ms Harrold said. “By my late twenties my transplant was well established and there were no problems but obviously due to the medication I was on and the pressure a pregnancy would put on my body, it takes a bit of thinking-through. “Being a mum and being able to do all the mum things like breastfeeding was amazing.” About 600 people in Scotland need a life-saving organ transplant, with Mr Matheson saying: “I don’t think there is a better New Year’s resolution than to become a potential lifesaver by joining the NHS Organ Donor Register. “We know the festive season is an important time for people to spend with family and friends, but I’d like people to spare a thought for the Scots who are waiting for an organ, hoping that they get to spend another Christmas with their families and loved ones. “For them, the most admirable New Year’s resolution would be for more people to join the NHS Organ Donor Register.
“Stories like Kirsten’s show the incredible impact organ donation can have on not just one person but a whole family.”