Houghton transplant daughter makes history with mum’s 100-year-old kidney

Sue Westhead on her wedding day with her mum, Ann Metcalfe.
Sue Westhead on her wedding day with her mum, Ann Metcalfe.
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A Wearside woman has astounded medical experts and made history with her 100-year-old transplanted kidney.

Sue Westhead, from Houghton, would not have survived if her mum hadn’t donated one of her kidneys more than 40 years ago.

Sue Westhead with her mum, Ann Metcalfe, after her transplant.

Sue Westhead with her mum, Ann Metcalfe, after her transplant.

The 68-year-old is now believed to be the owner of the oldest successfully transplanted kidney in the world.

An overwhelmed Sue, said she was stunned to find out about the accolade, but obviously owes it to her mother, Ann Metcalfe.

Sue received the successful transplant at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary in 1973, after being diagnosed with kidney disease.

The kidney was donated by Ann, who was 57 at the time, after it was found that Sue only had the equivalent of a tenth of her kidney function.

“My mum literally gave me life, because I wouldn’t have lived much longer”

Sue Westhead

Forty-three years later the donated kidney is still going strong, even though doctors estimate kidneys from a living donor can only last a maximum of 20 years before a further transplant is required.

The Wearside woman, who works for the Nazareth Trust christian charity group, said: “I am absolutely stunned and amazed. I only expected my kidney to last about five years and here I am 43 years later.

“My mother would have been 101 in November and it’s really down to her good genes.

“I would like to pay tribute to my mother for her gift of life to me.”

Sue Westhead with her mother, Ann Metcalfe before the transplant.

Sue Westhead with her mother, Ann Metcalfe before the transplant.

Looking back, Sue said: “It was a pretty scary time...even when I was still on the ward people were dying.

“My mum literally gave me life, because I wouldn’t have lived much longer. I could hardly walk, I was a different colour, I was yellow and all of a sudden I had a rosy glow.”

Sue said all of her family, including her dad, brother and sister, were tested, but it was found Ann was the best match.

She added: “My mother didn’t hesitate at all, I think she would have given her life if needs be.”

Sue Westhead

Sue Westhead

Tragically, Ann died at the age of 69 after being hit by a car while crossing the road.

Divorced Sue, who was advised by doctors not to have children, said: “I took it really badly when my mum died, it took me years to get over it.

“Having her kidney does make me feel close to her, sometimes I will touch my stomach and now my mum’s still with me.”

Since the transplant Sue says she has looked after herself and rigorously taken the almost 20 pills a day to make sure her donated organ isn’t rejected.

Experts at the British Transplantation Society, the Human Tissue Authority, NHS Blood and Transplant and Kidney Research UK say they don’t know of anyone else with a transplanted kidney more than 100 years old.

President of the British Transplantation Society and Professor of Transplant Surgery at Newcastle University, Professor Derek Manas, said: “It’s an amazing story of encouragement and hope for people on dialysis and for encouraging people to donate as living donors or to join the Organ Donor Register.”