Operation true love

I'd do anything to save the man who saved me...

Published by: Jean Jollands & James Knock
Published on: 10th February 2011

Life’s sad when the most exciting thing in it is a Corrie cliff-hanger. But that was what life was like for me. My 25-year marriage had ended months before. Since my son David, 28, had flown the nest, most evenings were spent on my own in front of the telly.
‘I hate seeing you like this,’ David sighed one night when he popped round.
‘Aw, I’m fine,’ I shrugged, wondering if I could catch EastEnders on repeat.
‘Mum, your Mr Right is out there somewhere,’ he winked, handing me a cuppa.
I felt myself blush. It would be nice to have someone to cuddle up with on the sofa. What’s more, I’d already earmarked who that someone should be – David’s best friend Steve Marshall, 55.
They’d been friends for years and shared a passion for Harley-Davidson motorbikes. Steve could make my engine roar any day of the week! At 5ft 10in, he had sexy blue eyes and shared my love of Guns and Roses.
Still, I wasn’t about to tell my son I fancied his best mate.
A few weeks later, David organised a 45th birthday party for me at a pub in Maidstone, Kent, telling me to dress to impress.
I made an effort to straighten my hair and put on a nice frock.
‘Stunning!’ David said when he picked me up. ‘Maybe you’ll attract Mr Right.’
‘Yeah, right,’ I chuckled.
At the pub I looked for Steve, but couldn’t find him. But, a few minutes later, he appeared next to me with David.
‘Here’s the guest of honour!’ my son announced, handing us drinks then quickly disappearing.
‘I think he’s trying to play cupid!’ Steve smiled.
‘Oh!’ I giggled, blushing again.
But he made me feel at ease. He told me about his work as an industrial plumber, and we happily chatted away all evening.
‘I knew you two would be perfect together,’ David winked later on. And we were. Steve started taking me on dates to restaurants and pubs. As we grew closer, my loneliness melted. When my divorce was finalised, we moved in together.
The next year, I was secretly pleased when my mate hinted to Steve he should pop the question. But… ‘I’ve never been married. It isn’t for me,’ he said gently.
Somehow, I knew it wasn’t personal. He was a free spirit. At least I’d finally found my soulmate. There was no more sitting in front of the telly for me.
But just when you think life is sweet, it has a way of biting you on the bum.
We’d been together almost three years when I started noticing Steve seemed constantly tired and listless. Probably been working too hard, I told myself.
Thankfully, he could have a well-deserved break during our holiday to Cuba. Sun, sea, sand, we even went on a boat trip. ‘It doesn’t get better than this,’ Steve winked, as I sunned myself on-deck.
‘Mm-hmm,’ I murmured.
‘I’m going for a dip,’ he said.
A kiss on my forehead, and he dived in. I rolled on my front to watch him. But what was that? It looked like Steve was frantically waving in distress…
‘Someone help him!’ I cried.
Terrified, I watched as two heroic holidaymakers dragged him to safety.
‘I-I’m… okay,’ Steve panted.
‘What happened?’ I worried.
‘Couldn’t catch my breath,’ he gasped. ‘It felt like my lungs had suddenly shrunk.’
‘The tiredness, now this,’ I tutted. ‘When we get home, you’re going to the doctor’s.’
We did just that. When blood tests revealed there might be a problem with his kidneys, Steve had to go to the Royal Free Hospital, in Hampstead, London, for further scans. I was sat next to him holding his hand when the consultant dropped his bombshell.
‘You have something called amyloidosis,’ he began. ‘Abnormal proteins have collected in your kidneys, severely damaging them. Without a transplant, your kidneys will
eventually fail.’
‘So, when can he have the operation?’ I asked, concerned.
He looked from me to Steve. ‘There’s a long wait for donated kidneys,’ he sighed.
‘Oh God!’ I gasped.
‘Although it is possible for someone to survive on one kidney,’ he added, ‘Steve’s best bet is if a relative donated one of theirs.’
But there was still no guarantee the operation would be successful.
Until a transplant was possible, Steve would need monthly check-ups. ‘My dad and uncle died of kidney disease,’ he said sadly.
‘There’s no way I’m letting that happen to you,’ I vowed.
Over the next few months, Steve grew increasingly tired and his skin took on a yellow tinge. Tests confirmed his kidney function was weakening, but none of his close relatives were a suitable match.
How could I stop my fella from slipping away?
There was only one solution… ‘Let me give you one of my kidneys,’ I begged him.
‘What? No!’ he frowned. ‘I can’t put you through that.’
‘I don’t care,’ I insisted.
‘We’re not related, you’re probably not even a match,’ he
told me gently. ‘The chances are I’ll have to go on a waiting list.’
‘You saved me from heartache,’ I insisted. ‘Now it’s my turn to save you.’
Eventually, reluctantly, Steve agreed, and David supported my decision.
After a year of blood tests and scans, doctors confirmed I was the perfect match!
They said with any op there were risks. But Steve was worth it – what would my life be without him anyway?
Four months before the operation, he took me to a posh restaurant to celebrate our fifth anniversary early. The waiter took in the candles and wine and our happy glow and smiled.
‘Congratulations on your wedding proposal,’ he said.
‘No, he hasn’t proposed,’ I chuckled, embarrassed.
‘Erm, love… he’s right,’ Steve interrupted. ‘I was going to wait until the main course but…’ He took out a diamond ring.
‘I don’t want to waste any more precious time,’ he smiled.
He’d always been so against marriage, I was gobsmacked.
Finally, the day of the operation arrived and we travelled up to London’s Guy’s Hospital for the transplant. Doctors would remove my left kidney then transfer it to my fiancé, leaving his damaged kidneys to wither away.
‘It’s not too late to change your mind,’ Steve gently said to me the night before.
‘No way!’ I insisted.
We didn’t want the doctors to tell us everything had gone to plan if it hadn’t, so we agreed on a secret code.
‘If I come around from my op and it’s gone well, I’ll get the doctor to tell you: “Cuddles is okay”,’I said.
‘And I’ll get the doc to tell you: “Lenny Loins is okay”,’ Steve grinned. His middle name is Leonard.
The following morning, I went for my op.
As I was wheeled off, Steve
held my hand right up to the theatre door.
Four hours later, I came round, woozy and sore.
‘It was a perfect success,’ the doctor told me. ‘Oh… Lenny Loins is okay, too.’
I saw Steve the next morning.
‘You’ve already got some colour back in your cheeks,’ I smiled, as he perched on my bed.
‘I can’t believe what you’ve done for me,’ he said.
‘Most couples get matching tattoos, but we have his ’n’ her scars,’ I smiled.
Luckily, both Cuddles and Lenny turned out fine! Steve has to go for regular check-ups, but he feels great now. And we’re marrying in September, with David as our best man.
Steve gave me his heart and I gave him my kidney – seems a fair swap!
Rosie Hutchins, 51, Wouldham, Kent