Police Federation

Men's Health Week - The Gift of Life

National Board member, Leigh Godfrey, discusses his experience donating a kidney.

13 June 2023


Leigh Godfrey, National Board member and Post Incident Lead discusses his experience of saving his dad's life by donating a kidney.

National Men’s Health Week see a focus on ensuring all of the support and all of the health and help forums available to men are known about. Beyond this, it is so important too, that we encourage healthy work environments where men feel safe to discuss health or wellbeing issues that they may be experiencing. By fostering a safe environment for such discussion men can lead by example with the hope that others will follow and feel comfortable in expressing their health concerns.

This is why National Board Post Incident Lead and Region 7 representative, Leigh Godfrey, wanted to share his experience of donating a kidney to his desperately in need father. By telling his story, Leigh hopes to encourage officers to share the burdens they may be carrying, be it health worries or concern over issues at home, as by sharing a burden we often, of course, lessen the weight of it.


The Gift of Life

Due to health issues centred around diabetes, my father had renal failure and needed an urgent kidney transplant - he had insufficient time to be put on the transplant list and wait. Enter me from stage right, and despite massive protest, reservations and objections from my father, he eventually conceded and allowed me to donate a kidney.

Ten years later and a kidney lighter, my father’s (my) kidney is still performing well.


The Process

I’m the youngest of three siblings, arguably the most intelligent, good looking and not to mention the most modest.

I never expected my brother or sister to donate a kidney, they both have children and I didn’t, so for me it was a no brainer! Naturally though, they also insisted on being tested for compatibility.

Unsurprisingly all three of us were all equally as compatible, from a biological point of view, as each other.

What followed next was a bit of a light assessment to ensure that there is no undue pressure on anyone to donate and that the choice is freely given.

Following that process it was decided that I was probably the most comfortable with the decision, not suggesting that my brother and sister weren’t, they absolutely were, I merely reinforce in the absence of having children; for my niece and nephew’s sake I was the obvious choice.

There is a thorough health screening to make sure that as a result of being a live donor, there would be no adverse effect upon my own health. They also test your kidneys to see which one is the better performer and give the recipient the less efficient one.


Support from South Wales Police

When it was confirmed that I was the likely candidate I approached the divisional commander. I was a little nervous, though I had no idea why, she was a very nice person and had never caused me to be nervous in any other interaction with her.

She was in her office so I asked for a quick chat and she afforded me some time, as she was always inclined to do for anyone. 

I explained the situation with my dad and that I was going to be donating him a kidney. I asked if I would be supported as technically, I was electing to be sick. She looked incredulous that I was even seeking permission and made it clear in no uncertain terms that she would support me in whatever I needed.


The Procedure

I had to be admitted to hospital the Sunday ahead of the transplant taking place on the Monday, I think this was just to make sure I didn’t chicken out the day before or consume copious amounts of alcohol and invalidate myself! I was in the ward with the world’s biggest snorer so didn’t get too much sleep.

Monday morning came, they gave me a rather stylish gown to wear and rolled me to theatre; on the way I passed my father’s room (yes, he had a private room with no snorer!). I gave him a thumbs up, he wished me good luck and that I’d see him after it was all sorted.

Anaesthetist did his magic and asked me to count backwards from 10; I think I got to 8 when the lights went out.

I woke up thinking I had had a decent sleep whilst waiting for the operation, only to discover my father was already in theatre having my kidney installed.

When the anaesthetic did eventually ware off, I was in a degree of pain and mortifyingly I was attached to a catheter… I was not happy about that I can tell you, especially when I kept catching the damn thing!

Despite some pain and discomfort, my overriding memory was the anxious wait whilst the transplant was taking place. The nurse arrived and told me that as they were attaching the kidney to my dad’s urethra it was already passing water which was a very good sign.

That was a huge weight off my mind and made everything ok… I was incredibly emotional at this point and shed a few tears of relief.


Taking the Proverbial

I was warned that the operation is worse for the donor than it is for the recipient - my mobility was severely restricted due to the wounds and pain and I couldn’t get out of bed, hence the catheter. It was really taking the proverbial when my father came to see me, what a show off!


Person not policy

The recovery period was due to be a month before I could return to work in a phased return, but unfortunately I had an infection and was quite poorly, plus I had to have the wound packed on a daily basis by nurses.

My line managers were understanding and initially I didn’t have any pressure applied to return to work; however, as the month turned into two I started having the same old, “HR are putting pressure on me”. I simply couldn’t drive or walk and I was still requiring daily packing of the wound - this was ten years ago so working from home was non-existent.

I eventually returned to work after four months and my Sergeant drafted me an “informal” management action plan to sign, stating HR said he had too… of course we know different, however it was an informal action plan and therefore unappealable.

I simply signed the form and I promised not to give away another kidney!


Absolutely no regrets

If I could, I would absolutely do it again in a heartbeat… the infection was an anomaly, but even with the infection it was not too arduous or painful.

If anyone else is in a situation where they could be a live donor for someone, I’m more than happy to discuss in further detail. For me it was absolutely worth it.

Had I known now what I knew before, if it were possible, I would absolutely donate my kidney to anyone. Afterall what is better than giving someone the gift of life.


Diabetes UK - Know diabetes. Fight diabetes. | Diabetes UK           

Become a living donor - NHS Organ Donation

Kidney Care UK, the UK's leading kidney patient support charity | Kidney charity


If you want to chat to me about the issues I discuss here you can contact me at leigh.godfrey@polfed.org.


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