Hero saves his wife in kidney swap deal with mystery couple

The unusual exchange saw all four go under the knife in a series of interlinked operations performed in a single day.

When Andrea, 41, was told her kidneys were starting to fail Stuart offered to donate one of his own, but it was not a match. So medics offered him the chance to help his wife - and save a stranger's life at the same time.

Andrea, who suffers with the liver-poisoning Wilson's disease, had her first emergency transplant at the age of 14.

But the medication she took to stop her body rejecting the new liver had a detrimental effect on her kidneys and they started to fail.

The couple, who are parents to Lara, 15, and Louis, 13, were then thrown a lifeline by joining the "paired kidney exchange scheme".

Under the programme, when a willing donor and recipient are incompatible, they are matched with another donor and recipient in the same situation.

Andrea, of Newcastle, said they were in the donor pool for six months when, last October, they received the call they had been hoping for.

Stuart, 42, said: "I was on the way back from work and it was my daughter who rang me because Andrea was crying too much to speak." In January the pair went into Newcastle's Freeman Hospital at the same time as their donor couple attended a different UK hospital.

Andrea said: "Stuart went down for surgery first - the donors have to go down at exactly the same time in case someone pulls out.

"I was really nervous thinking about that because it would have meant I had to wait again.

"Waiting to hear about how it had gone was awful - those were the longest few hours of my life."

But soon doctors confirmed that Stuart's kidney had been removed and was on the way to its recipient, while the other donor's kidney was heading to Newcastle for Andrea.

She said: "As soon as I woke up I could feel the difference. I felt so much better than I had done in years."

The couple, married 17 years, were kept apart for two days after Stuart suffered a bad reaction to his painkillers. Stuart said of their hospital reunion: "It was emotional for me because I could tell straight away she looked better."

Stuart and Andrea are now back at home recuperating and Andrea is already enjoying a new lease of life.

They have been told their matched couple have also had a successful outcome, but confidentiality rules prevent them finding out their identity.

Stuart said: "There's definitely a curiosity there."

And Andrea added: "They've done exactly the same as we have - they've donated to save their partner.

"I see Stuart as the person who saved my life, and I'm sure the other couple feel the same way.

"He's my donor and my hero."

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