A Combe Martin man who gave a stranger a kidney for Christmas is sharing his story in the hope it might inspire others.

James Mason recovering in hospital after his kidney donor operation. Picture: James MasonJames Mason recovering in hospital after his kidney donor operation. Picture: James Mason

James Mason had an operation on December 11 at Derriford in Plymouth to donate one of his healthy kidneys to an anonymous recipient.

It is the end of a four year journey for the 44-year-old, who was moved to come forward in 2015 after watching an appeal on BBC Spotlight from a woman in Cornwall who needed a new kidney from a live donor.

He wasn't a match, but the TDK Lambda electronics engineer decided to continue the process and donate a kidney to someone.

James said he wanted to tell his story to raise awareness of kidney failure and the need for organ donors.

He said: "I didn't know it was even possible until I saw the appeal, so I assume there are many other people out there who have never given it any thought at all.

"It's quite common with friends and family groups to donate but it's quite unusual to do it the way I did it. I thought that was something I could do and it's not without risk, but the risks are very low.

"If just one person becomes interested in doing the same thing then that's another life that could be transformed."

It has not been an easy journey as in 2017 he had to withdraw from the process to look after his mum, who was very ill, and then in 2018 the operation had to be halted after surgeons discovered an unrelated and previously undiagnosed problem.

But now finally, 'Billy the kidney' as James christened him, is doing well with a new owner.

The recipient's identity remains anonymous, but James knows his donation went to a female, whose new kidney was working within hours of the transplant and all was looking good.

He said: "The recipient was very ill and had been waiting some time for a kidney. It's all done anonymously although they may choose to write a letter to their donor that will be passed on.

"It's nice to think that she went into hospital, got a new kidney and was at home by Christmas."

The operation is relatively simple, but the process is very intensive and James underwent numerous tests and hospital visits before doctors were satisfied he was suitable to be a donor.

James said: "It became really important to me and once I had the tests it was something I was really keen to see through to the end.

"I don't feel any different, I have not got to make any changes to my lifestyle or diet.

"It was over 10 years ago that the law changed and made it possible to donate to strangers, with safeguards in place to make sure there was no coercion or payment.

"Since then, fewer than 700 people in the UK have made the decision to donate to a stranger.

"Statistically, I think every other day somebody dies without ever having a donor.

"One of the statistics I read was I think that 83 per cent of live kidneys survive beyond 10 years. On average it costs about £30,000 a year for dialysis but the anti-rejection drugs only costs the NHS £5,000."

Through his research James learned that some 4,000 people in the UK were waiting for a kidney at any one time. And live kidneys tend to have a longer life span than those from a deceased donor.

He said: "I researched information about dialysis and kidney failure and began to understand the impact on someone's life of surviving on dialysis three or four times a week.

"Kidney failure does not get a huge amount of coverage compared with other things such as dementia or cancer and there is not a waiting list because of money, there's a waiting list because of a shortage of kidneys."

Anyone who would like to find out more about organ donation can go to https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/ or https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/become-a-living-donor/ .