Sammy, 2, gets life-saving kidney from uncle

'I just knew it was the right thing to do,' says Andy Silverman


The story of the life-saving gift of a kidney to a two-year-old girl has been shared by a Manchester family to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation.

Samantha (Sammy) Ayling from Bury is recovering at home after the transplant, which followed the donation of a kidney by her uncle, Andy Silverman. The surgery gives Sammy the chance of a normal life after being on dialysis and tube-fed.

Stacey Silverman gave birth to Sammy and her twin Alexandra after a very rare “mono mono” pregnancy which meant the girls shared the same amniotic sac and placenta.

“We thought the girls were fine at first but then we found out Sammy’s kidneys had not formed properly,” explained Ms Silverman who also has an older daughter, Georgina, four, with partner Jim.

Sammy was immediately transferred to St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester for treatment and dialysis. She was there for eight months, with the family supported by Camp Simcha, which provided a family liaison officer and volunteer to help with a range of services, making “such a huge difference in those unbelievably difficult months”, Ms Silverman said.

Her daughter had been given just a 50 per cent chance of surviving her first year and the family were told a transplant was the only prospect of a full life. She had to reach a certain size to be eligible. A few months back, her doctors said she was ready — and it was then that her uncle offered to be the kidney donor.

Mr Silverman’s son Alfie has hydrocephalus — a build-up of fluid on the brain — and has undergone five surgeries. The Radcliffe-based dad-of-three, who runs a plumbing and heating business, said what his family had been through with Alfie was the catalyst for him wanting to help Sammy.

“If Sammy could be made as well as she could be and some of the stress on the family could be alleviated, that for me was a big thing,” explained Mr Silverman, who has also been supported by Camp Simcha. “I just knew it was the right thing to do.”

Although Ms Silverman was also a match for her daughter, there was concern that with her partner at home looking after the other girls, she would not be in a position to be the care-giver for Sammy after the surgery.

“Before we made the decision, the hospital told us to take a week to talk through the practicalities,” she recalled. “But when I called my brother halfway into the week, he said to me: ‘I’ve put everything in place. I want to do this’.”

Sammy’s surgery was not without complications. “They gave her a lot of fluid while she was having the transplant, which is normal. But she got a ‘sleepy kidney’, which is rare with a living donor. This meant she couldn’t cope with all the fluid because the kidney didn’t ‘wake up’ fast enough. She ended up having to be intubated, sedated and temporarily paralysed in order for her lungs to repair themselves, which was terrifying.

“Then her heart started to go wrong and they thought she had had a stroke. Two days later, her lungs had cleared, the ‘stroke’ turned out to be a false alarm and she was ordering the nurses about.

“So we had gone from almost losing her — at one point they said she was about an hour away from her body giving up — to her being absolutely fine.

“It has been a hellish couple of years. Sammy has been on daily dialysis, tube-fed and sick between two to 12 times a day as part of her renal condition. Now thanks to Andy, she is finally getting a chance of a normal life.”

Mr Silverman added the hope that telling Sammy’s story would encourage others to consider organ donation, particularly “altruistic donations of organs. This is where you give an organ to someone you don’t know or outside of your immediate family.

“We have been told there is a massive shortage of altruistic donors within the UK in comparison to the United States.”

Ms Silverman reported that Sammy was doing brilliantly and getting stronger every day.

“While there are no guarantees on how long the kidney will last, and we have a lot of monitoring ahead, we hope she could get 20 years before she needs another.

“For now, she is enjoying being able to taste food for the first time after being tube-fed previously. We are loving her joy in eating. She finishes one meal and asks for the next. It has been a very dark two years but we really pray that with Andy’s amazing gift, her future is brighter.”

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