Des Hewitt does not want to be called a ‘hero’ or ‘inspirational’ – despite his recent act of kindness being more than deserving of those accolades.
Just last month, the Drumquin man went under the knife so that one of his kidneys could be removed and donated to a stranger in need.
Altruism at its finest, Des, who celebrated his 50th birthday just before Christmas, has been fit as a fiddle since the operation – and said, without any airs or graces, that he hopes his ‘normal’ act will encourage other people to do the same to transform the life of another.
“A person can survive perfectly well and be healthy with just one kidney – I can’t stress that enough,” Des told the UH this
week as he drove home from a follow-up hospital appointment in Belfast.
“I knew it could be done, and at 50-years-old, I felt there was no better time than now to donate one of mine.”
Des’ reasons for donating his kidney was simple: He wished to ‘give something back’ after receiving blood and first class medical care when he suffered a ‘bad fall’ and ruptured his spleen just under 22 years ago.
“I’d had a serious accident,” Des, husband of Lorna and father of daughter, Alex (16) and son, Ben (16) explained. “My spleen needed removing, and I had to receive ten units of blood in one night.
“Someone had donated that blood to help a stranger, and that stranger turned out to be me. You never know when you are going to need the help of another person who you’ve never met.
“Since then, it was in my head to give something back to another – particularly as I haven’t been allowed to give blood since that accident.”
He continued, “My mother also sadly passed away from dementia six years ago, and while I fundraised at the time by doing a parachute jump in aid of dementia, I felt like I hadn’t really done enough, or given enough back.
“Furthermore,” he added, “Fifty years ago, my brother had one of his kidneys removed as it hadn’t grown or developed properly.
“So I’ve known my entire life that a person can survive with just the one.”
Prior to the operation, Des underwent a ‘full MOT’ at the Belfast City Hospital – including giving blood and urine samples and having an ultrasound – to ensure that he was an eligible donor.
“My number one priority throughout was my own health and safety,” Des said.
“I had researched it all thoroughly before the procedure, and once my full health assessment declared that I was okay for the procedure, I couldn’t have received any better care from the staff at the hospital. There is a truly amazing team up there.”
For most patients, kidney removal takes approximately two and a half hours, but as Des’ insides were, as he described, ‘messy’ since his accident decades ago, his procedure took an hour longer.
“Despite this, my operation was simple and straight-forward,” Des said.
“And I haven’t had any aches or pain since… Sure I was up and showered the very next day at the hospital, and was then discharged!
“I haven’t even needed to take pain relief, and honestly… I’ve had teeth that have given me more bother,” he laughed.
“Since the operation, I’ve had people calling me ‘a hero’ and I’ve received all sorts of praise, but I’ve always had an ‘it’s a normal thing to do’ mindset from day one.”
And would you recommend organ donation to everyone?
“Absolutely,” he attested. “There are so many reasons why it’s worthwhile: Essentially you are saving a life.
“The only downside of donating your organs is that you never get to know who the recipient is, as it is all confidential,” he continued.
“All I know is that the person who received my kidney was a male in his 30s from London, and he had been waiting on a match for a long time.
“I also know that it has changed his life, and the lives of his family, for the better.
“And while the day I had my kidney removed felt just like a normal day for me… Well for him, it must have felt like he won the lottery.”
• If you would like to follow in Des’ footsteps and donate your kidney to help a person on the organ donation waiting list, please contact Belfast City Hospital, Lisburn Road on 02890329241. They would be extremely grateful to hear from you, and Des has reassured all potential donors that you will receive the best possible care.
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