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AUDIO: Harrogate dad raises awareness of organ donation

AUDIO: Harrogate dad raises awareness of organ donation

Published at 7:02am 20th June 2016. (Updated at 1:29pm 20th June 2016)

A father who saved his daughter's life, by donating one of his kidneys to her, is preparing to take on the Great Yorkshire Run to highlight the need for organ donation.

When Jemma Reast became seriously ill with kidney disease at 15 years old, and was told that she needed a transplant, dad Jon said he would do anything to save her life.

Jon, 51, from Harrogate, showed no hesitation in offering his daughter one of his kidneys.

He will now take on the Great Yorkshire Run in Harrogate to prove that organ donation is an "easy" thing to do.

Jemma, now a healthy student at Warwick University, contracted E. coli poisoning at the age of three.

As a result, she suffered problems throughout her childhood and spent most of it in hospital before she was placed on the transplant waiting list due to kidney failure, right in the middle of her GCSEs at Ashville College.

After Jemma's painstaking wait on the register, both Jon and his wife Sue underwent tests to see if they would be a match to donate one of their kidneys to her.

When Jon found out that he was a perfect match, a father's love prevailed and he instantly volunteered to undergo the operation.

Jon said: "For me, it was easy. I lay on the operating table, had the anaesthetic and remember listening to 1980s band 'Level 42' being played in the operating theatre as I went off.

"I had looked forward to the day, since this was when our daughter could start to get better.

"Thankfully it all went well, and we were both successfully out of surgery. We have a great deal to thank the NHS for!

"The day of the operation was a terrible day for my wife.

"She had been very strong, she had her husband and daughter both in surgery at the same time, and the whole operation to remove and then transplant the kidney took hours.

"Jemma is now fighting fit and has just completed a gap year in France. People are amazed by what I did, but for me I would have done anything to make my daughter better again.

"Partly to prove to myself, my daughter and others that donating a kidney is easy, I started running to get fit for the operation and have now signed up for the Great Yorkshire Run."

Despite such a selfless act, Jon maintains that his gift is just something that any father would do for their child, but has dedicated his time to supporting organ donation and Kidney Research UK.

Jon added: "I have a great relationship with both of our daughters, and we have always as far as possible, despite these challenges, tried to treat them equally.

"I would never want to make Jemma feel beholden to me for donating, I would hate that. It was just something that any parent would do to save their child's life, simple as that.

"We were lucky, very lucky, given that 1,000 people a year die on transplant waiting lists, mostly awaiting kidneys, in that I proved to be a match and so I was relieved to be able to help."

Hear more of Jon's story:

You can find out more about the Great Yorkshire Run at www.greatrun.org/great-yorkshire-run