UK first pioneering kidney transplant at Evelina London

Posted on Friday 10th March 2017
Tom Allfree with mum his mum and dad at Evelina London

Tom Allfree with his mum and dad at Evelina London after his transplant.

Surgeons at Evelina London Children’s Hospital have carried out one of the UK’s first “paired” kidney transplants. Eleven year old, Tom Allfree, from Southampton, was one of the first children in the UK to undergo this innovative new procedure.

Paired living kidney transplants are used when a kidney donor (usually a family member) and a person in need of a new kidney have incompatible blood group or tissue types. Both people are matched with another donor and recipient who they are compatible with, leading to the kidneys being exchanged. This means that people who desperately need a new kidney receive one that they would not have otherwise had.

Professor Nizam Mamode, consultant transplant surgeon at Evelina London said: “We’re all immensely pleased that this pioneering kidney transplant has gone well, and we are now excited about being able to offer this service to other patients in a similar situation. This is a national scheme, and we have had several adult patients undergo the procedure, so it’s great to see Tom be one of the first children in the UK.”

When Tom was referred to Evelina London in early 2016 his kidneys were failing due to a medical problem he had from birth. For over a year, Tom was on dialysis - a procedure to remove waste products and excess fluid from the blood when the kidneys stop working properly. Dialysis can put a lot of pressure on a child’s organs and Tom was put forward for the paired donation scheme.

Despite wanting to donate a kidney to him, neither of Tom’s parents were ideal matches. Tom’s uncle, Bill Allfree, flew to the UK from his home in Spain to find out if he was a match.

Bill’s kidney wasn’t a suitable match for Tom, but tests found that he was a good match for another person in the UK paired kidney pool. A three way swap took place and all three people had surgery on the same day. If even one of them had become even slightly unwell ahead of the surgery, or pulled out, the whole process would have been unable to go ahead. 

Tom’s mother, Sarah Allfree, said: “Before Tom’s transplant, with all the dialysis involved in his treatment, things were quite difficult and exhausting, especially for Tom.

“Evelina London were amazing for our family. The brilliant staff and great facilities have made our family’s experience, through what was often a difficult and stressful situation, a lot easier.

“Things are still quite hectic following the transplant, but Tom and our family are doing well, and we hope that his experience can help raise awareness of this procedure for other families in the same situation.”

Tom said: “I’m really happy to have had the surgery and receive my new kidney, and the doctors and nurses at Evelina have been really kind. While I was at Evelina I was talking with my classmates back home in Southampton on Skype, so I’m really happy to be back at school too!”

Professor Nizam Mamode continued: “The success of this paired scheme kidney transplant owes a great deal to the fantastic team effort by staff at Evelina from a variety of clinical backgrounds. This type of transplant, which can often be more difficult with children, requires a huge amount of preparation and after-care, as well as the surgical procedures.”

Read more about Kidney Services at Evelina London.