Golfer Club Person of the Year for Kidney Transplant

Golf member, Rob Simpson has been awarded ‘Club Person of the Year’ at Exeter Golf and Country Club for donating his kidney to fellow member and best friend, Martin.

Rob and Martin have been best friends for fifteen years, having worked together as paramedics for the past twenty-five years. Since April 2015, the men have shared more than their lengthy friendship, when Rob successfully donated his kidney to Martin.

Martin’s health began to deteriorate after being diagnosed with a congenital kidney defect many years ago. Having been friends for so long, Rob was always aware of this, yet the reality of the situation came as a shock when Martin was informed by his consultant to start looking for a living donor.

Rob explained that his decision to volunteer as a potential donor was a gradual process.
“I didn’t jump into putting myself forward as a donor as I knew the gravity of the decision and that the potential consequences it could have for my own family. I thought long and hard about it over the course of seven to eight months. I knew Martin’s transplant wasn’t urgent but that it was inevitable and so that gave me time to make sure it was the right decision for me and that my family supported me.”

Once Rob had made his mind up, he consulted his wife and two sons. Although his wife had reservations, his sons were behind Rob right from the start. His wife’s concerns were about factoring in the future – what if their own sons needed a kidney transplant at some point? After much deliberation, Rob decided to speak with Martin, knowing he had the full support of his family.

Martin and Rob knew that the chances of compatibility were slim, given that they were not related. It took 8 months of checks and tests before they would know the chances of success. Rob endured a series of compatibility checks, fitness tests and psychological evaluations to ensure that his own kidneys, body and mind were robust enough to cope with the operation. The consultants had to be sure that Rob had made the decision himself for the right reasons.

Rob said, “The decision to help Martin was completely natural for me. I have seen Martin’s health suffer gradually over the years and I knew that if there was a way I could help him, I would. The reason why I helped him is very simple – it is because I could. I could not sit by and watch him worsen knowing that I could have stopped his condition progressing.”

In January 2015, Rob and Martin were found to be compatible. Of the six compatibility factors considered for kidney transplants, Rob and Martin shared four. This is considered to be remarkable for individuals who are not related. Two or three shared factors are considered as acceptable grounds to operate, four is ideal. A shared blood group and tissue type are essential.

The operation was booked for 2nd April 2015. Rob explains the realisation hit home when the date for the operation was confirmed, however his determination to help his friend outweighed any reservations.

The removal of Rob’s kidney took four hours and his recovery in hospital, two days. Rob said he was surprised at how much the operation affected him, “The operation knocked me for six. I felt awful. For a week or two after, I was in a great deal of pain and felt drained. However, what kept me going was seeing the transformation in Martin!”

Martin, in contrast, emerged from hospital after five days and a 6 hour operation and felt great. The effectiveness of Rob’s kidney was immediate and Martin was out walking his dog, eight days later. Creatinine levels are monitored to measure kidney function and two days after surgery, Martin’s had reduced to 150 from 550 beforehand. A person with healthy kidneys has a Creatinine level of 90 to 100, so the improvement was remarkable.

Rob’s recovery time after the operation was a few more weeks. Five weeks after surgery, Rob was back teeing off at Exeter Golf and Country Club. After a further three weeks he had returned to work.

A year on, both Rob and Martin are healthy and happy with their decision. With Martin’s hospital checks reduced to once a month, the friends are back on track and enjoying life. Rob has just returned from a skiing trip with friends.

Rob explains that he is delighted he could help his best friend in this way and that seeing Martin living a full and active life is all the thanks he needs. Rob said, “The support of my family was essential to me in making this happen. Without the support of my wife and sons, I wouldn’t have put myself forward for this and Martin may not be living the life he is now. For anyone else considering volunteering as a donor, I would always stress the importance of this. Also, it is vital that it is for the right reasons. Yes, I would recommend being a donor – why wouldn’t I when I can see my friend enjoying life with his family and our friends, however always consider your reasons and only progress with ample support, which I was lucky to have from my family and employer.”

From April 2014 to April 2015, around 3,000 kidney transplants were carried out in the UK, but there were still more than 5,000 people on the waiting list for a kidney by the end of this period.

Liz Turner who was Club President in 2015 originally presented the trophy to Rob in January, however the trophy was presented again in February following the official engraving.

Kevin Butler, who is 2016 Club President at Exeter Golf and Country Club said, “The statistics about the demand for kidney transplants speak for themselves. It is miraculous that Rob and Martin were so compatible and I felt honoured to hear their story when I presented Rob with his award. Rob’s generosity for his friend is admirable and his humble explanation adds to the respect he deserves. The agreement to award him ‘Club Person of the Year’ was unanimous amongst our Club Committee and I cannot think of a more deserving person. We are proud that Rob and Martin are members of Exeter Golf and Country Club.”