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Around three million people in the UK have kidney disease

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Those crucial hours and days after a transplant, waiting to see whether a new lease of life really has been achieved. It’s familiar territory for Lorna Marson, consultant transplant surgeon at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. Will the donor kidney will thrive? Will the patient’s body reject it?

Lorna Marson, transplant surgeon

Lorna Marson, transplant surgeon

Like many of the researchers we are celebrating in our World Kidney Day heroines campaign this year, Lorna’s achievements straddle her academic and clinical work. She is currently President of the British Transplantation Society and it’s easy to see the passion she has for her work: “I love the surgery, the ethical challenges around both living and deceased donation, as well as the exciting science” she said. Positive outcomes are priceless. “Above all, the amazing feeling of transplanting a patient and then going to see them afterwards, and they already feel better because of a functioning kidney.”

One pivotal moment in her career has been receiving a £750,000 award from Kidney Research UK to run a clinical trial aimed at improving outcomes for transplant patients. The trial is testing a treatment to tackle delayed graft function, where the donor kidney often takes a while to start working after transplant. In the worst case scenario, the delay can contribute to rejection of the organ by the body. The patient is then back to square one, or worse, with more antibodies making the chances of finding a matching organ even harder.

“If our trial is successful, this treatment could become routine clinical practice. It could lead to more transplanted patients living healthier lives for longer, without the pain and disappointment of losing the transplanted organ so soon after transplant,” said Lorna.

This potentially game-changing trial is just the latest challenge for the talented surgeon, who has also worked as part of a team to develop an antibody incompatible transplant programme in the East of Scotland.

Gordon Watkins has benefited from this programme and cannot speak highly enough of Lorna: “I feel Lorna is a genuine heroine for her personal commitment and dedication to the pioneering research into incompatible blood group transplantation. Her much valued work in this area has benefitted the whole transplantation community. She took on my case and agreed to undertake the procedure for my kidney transplant in July 2016.

I feel Lorna is a genuine heroine - Gordon Watkins, patient

“My wife kindly offered to donate her kidney to me and Lorna made it happen, along with the team in Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Together they jumped through hoops to overcome the many obstacles which presented themselves. Not only were we incompatible blood groups but also vastly different in size. Even at the last minute Lorna postponed by a day to ensure the maximum opportunity for the transplant to be a success. She continued to visit both my wife and I after the surgery to monitor our health before being discharged. I felt that she was instrumental in providing the maximum support both pre- and post op- and showed her genuine interest and dedication to her service.”

And how does Lorna feel about joining our line-up of heroines this World Kidney Day?

“I feel humbled and a little embarrassed to be the focus of attention as part of the World Kidney Day heroines campaign. I am very privileged to do the work that I do, to play a small part in the miracle that is transplantation. I am constantly humbled by the generosity of donors, who, in life or death, make the brave decision to donate their organs in order to give life to others. I am also privileged to have been a trustee of Kidney Research UK, whose team strive with tremendous energy and enthusiasm to improve the lives of kidney patients through funding research.”

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