The family was out on a beach trip when the dog, named Indie, started interacting with a stranger. She turned out to be the perfect match for kidney donation.
Sometimes we find hope in the most unexpected places and it can also prove to be life-saving. Lucy Humphrey, aged 44, was living with lupus since 2000 and was diagnosed with end-stage renal failure in 2017. She was informed that she needed a new kidney to survive. By a stroke of luck, she found a donor on a Welsh beach, of all places. Humphrey and her partner, Cenydd Owen, had been looking forward to taking their dogs on campervan holidays. However, they had to abandon their plans since Humphrey's regular dialysis treatments required her to stay within close proximity to her healthcare providers. Consequently, she could not be away for more than a few nights. Hence, the couple decided to take their dogs to Cold Knap Beach in Barry and do a barbecue. According to Wales Online, her pet Doberman, Indie, had some other plans as they approached the beach.
Indie repeatedly approached a nearby campervan, where a woman sat and engaged in crocheting. "Indie went over like three times, back and forward to her," Humphrey explained. "She was minding her own business, campervanning on her own. Eventually, Cenydd went over to apologize and we got chatting and invited her over to our barbecue." It turns out that the stranger Indie was bothering was Katie James, who had recently joined the kidney donation register to donate. The 40-year-old told Humphrey that she could not drink alcohol because she was on dialysis. Eventually, James realized that Humphrey was on a waiting list for a kidney transplant and she agreed to donate. "We swapped telephone numbers. And I did not think anything else would come of it," said Humphrey.
Previously, Humphrey's partner and one of his friends offered to donate their kidneys, but they were not a match. Hence, they weren't too hopeful until the test results came back and James was a perfect match. Humphrey said the chances of her and James meeting must have been "one in 22 million." In June 2021, they initiated the process, but due to COVID-related delays, the transplant did not occur until October 2022. After the operation, Humphrey experienced a drop in blood pressure as the kidney did not work properly, resulting in a four-week hospital stay. During this time, Humphrey and James were both in the same ward, allowing them to spend time together before being discharged.
Humphrey expressed her gratitude for the life-saving encounter by saying, "I’m so grateful for her. I told my partner in 2019 if I did not find a transplant within five years, it was possible something would happen, and I would die." She added, "I want this to be a message to other people not to give up hope." Although James did not anticipate that her kidney would be a complete match for Humphrey, she was content that she could contribute to someone with whom she could maintain contact.
"Originally, I was due to go into a pooled donation," she explained. "I would not know who the kidney went to, where, why, or even if it worked. I was quite happy with that, but I’d never have known." However, since she directly donated her kidney to Humphrey, she is aware of the recipient's identity and regularly receives updates about her progress. She adds that the experience of contributing to a stranger's life and imagining the impact was quite different from the fulfillment she experiences from knowing the person directly.
James has a message for her fellow donors, "If [kidney donation] is something you have ever considered or you’re considering now because you’ve heard this story, then look into it. It’s not like giving blood; I’d say to anybody to go and donate blood, but with a kidney, it’s such a major operation and a big decision." She added, "But you can pull out at any point. You are never made to feel guilty or pressured and you have every opportunity to change your mind. The team at the Heath has been great, and knowing that you have changed somebody’s life is brilliant."
James, Humphrey and her partner Owen have sustained a friendship, maintained through a group chat dubbed "the Kidney Gang." They have also shared meals and plan to embark on a campervan holiday together. Furthermore, Humphrey is gradually returning to activities that she loves. She can now go on campervan holidays as frequently as she desires and she is also back to her routine of walking her dogs, Indie and Dave, three times a day. She attributes the transformation in her life completely to the donation and James.