A Dundee-born mum was shocked to receive a new kidney from a complete stranger – who made her final decision after seeing they were both fans of Harry Potter.
Angela Shannon, 44, suffered from kidney disease from aged two, going on to receive a transplant from her mum Irene McKay in 2002.
However, after years of living without any problems, Angie’s body started to reject the kidney and she was forced back onto arduous rounds of dialysis in 2015.
The mum-of-three, who now lives in Blairgowrie, decided to make a Facebook page highlighting her struggle, having been told another ‘live donor’ would be her best chance of a recovery from reflux nephropathy, in which the kidneys are damaged by the backward flow of urine into the kidney.
And, to the astonishment of Angie and husband Paul, 45, a complete stranger reached out and decided to give her a kidney.
Michelle Sweeting from Newcastle donated the organ after seeing she and Angie shared a love of the Harry Potter books and films.
And Angie has even named her new kidney ‘Lily’ after one of the characters from the fantasy series.
Angie, who works for Scottish Water, said: “I always knew I would need a transplant and it always just seemed agreed my mum would give me a kidney at some point.
“I had some major operations as a kid after constant problems with my bladder. I was in hospital so much my consultant even ended up at my wedding, I knew him so well.
“I had my first transplant back in 2002. At the time we had three children all under six years old, so it was a much-needed boost.
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“I looked and felt better immediately, the colour just returned to my face and I wasn’t thirsty all the time.”
Then, in 2013, Angie found out she was rejecting the kidney and despite the doctors’ best efforts she ended up back on dialysis in the summer of 2015, just before her 40th birthday.
“I had put up on Facebook in 2014 that I was going back on dialysis and posted that I would need a transplant,” said Angie.
“To my shock, six people said they would give me a kidney if I needed one. One was a person I worked with, another four were from the Tayside area and one was Michelle, who lives in Newcastle.
“I don’t have words to describe how that felt. People give blood, but to ask people to go into hospital to have their body cut open and have part of their body removed – it really astounds me that anyone would agree to that.
“When I first got the message from Michelle she contacted me online, saying she just wanted to let me know she had the same blood type and had had a compatibility test and if I wanted it, ‘the kidney is yours’.
“I didn’t quite believe the message, we thought it was a wind up then the consultant said, ‘this is real’.
“Michelle found the page on Facebook, looked through it and saw I was a big Harry Potter fan, and that was what finally sealed her decision to give a kidney to me.
“To say she saved my life is an understatement.
“After the transplant in 2017, I feel now I have a responsibility because I know what she went through, I don’t want to let her down. I feel like I have that obligation to live life to the fullest.”
The pair have remained in contact and Michelle met the rest of the family, including Angie’s kids Taylor, Robert and Andrew, when she and Paul, who works as a transport manager for Dundee Plant, decided to renew their vows.
The ceremony was one of several things Angie put on a ‘bucket list’ after the transplant.
She added: “I would urge anyone to sign up for the Organ Donor Register as there are so many people who need organs.
“I have always said that if you are prepared to take an organ, you should be prepared to donate when you die.”
Since its creation, there have been 1,868 organ donors in Scotland – a third of which were known to be on the Organ Donor Register – leading to more than 6,200 lives being saved or improved.
In Tayside, 50% of the population are currently on the NHS Organ Donor Register, with just over 2.6 million people having already registered their donation decision nationally, which is 49% of the Scottish population.
However, the law will be changing next year to a new system of ‘deemed authorisation’, more commonly known as an ‘opt-out’ system, in Scotland.
Despite this positive change, there are more than 550 people in Scotland currently waiting on a transplant, some urgently to the point they may have just months or weeks to live without one.
One donor can save or transform the lives of up to nine people and even more by donating tissue.
To sign the Organ Donor Register, click here.