– Daventry warehouse supervisor Paul Hornberger has survived a life-threatening health scare thanks to the remarkably generous act of a colleague.
Following a major kidney failure in April 2011, Paul came within days of losing his life, and was only being kept alive by a punishing regime of dialysis three times a week.
The extra stress on his heart caused by this treatment led to a prognosis by medical staff that he had perhaps only three years to live, unless he could get a replacement kidney from a donor.
It was at this point that Andy Sheppard, his friend and colleague of over 20 years, came to the rescue.
“At first, I just wanted to see how I could help, like anyone would for a mate – such as a hospital visit, or some assistance with shopping,” said Andy, a graphical printer at Daventry. “I never imagined it would go any further than that.
“Then I read that living kidney donors did not need to be family members, as long as they were compatible. Since you can survive perfectly well with just one kidney, making a donation suddenly seemed like a possibility.”
Naturally Paul was rather shocked when his friend suggested the possible solution.
“I was totally blown away when Andy first mentioned it,” he said. “I felt really guilty about the risks he could be facing.
“But knowing that the waiting list for donated kidneys is anything from three to 15 years, it was amazing to be offered this lifeline.”
From the initial idea, Paul and Andy decided to investigate further, and embarked on a six-month roller-coaster journey as Andy went through around 20 different examinations and tests to establish whether he would be a suitable donor.
“It was a series of highs and lows as we got the different test results,” explained Andy. “But at the end of October we finally received the go-ahead – and just three days later we were on the operating table.”
Using the expertise of Professor Michael Nicholson and his transplant team at the Leicester General Hospital, the operations were completed using specialised key-hole surgery which maximises the chances of a successful outcome.
Less than three months later, Paul was fit enough to start working again in Daventry, with his new kidney working well. His friend Andy returned to work several weeks earlier, with no ill effects.
“I felt better within four hours of the operation, and compared with a year ago when my kidneys were already failing, I have much more energy,” said Paul.
“Looking back, I wish I had discussed my symptoms much earlier with my doctor – just having regular blood pressure checks could have identified my kidney problems much sooner.”
Paul and Andy have nothing but praise for the team at Leicester General Hospital, and for the staff at the Northampton dialysis unit who supported Paul during his treatment.
The pair are planning a fundraising event during the spring in aid of the Northampton unit to help provide much-needed equipment for staff and patients.
“We have also had total support from everyone at Ford, both in giving us the opportunity to attend all of the many appointments, and in providing all the recovery time that we needed,” added Andy.
The final word comes from Paul, on the selfless gesture of his friend.
“Just two per cent of all live kidney donations come from donors who are not related, so I know how lucky I am to have a friend like Andy.
“Anyway, since I’m now carrying a part of him around in my body, we’re more like brothers now!” he joked.