Obituary: Kidney transplant patient who became a world first dies aged 74

Laura Thompson of Rockland All Saints, who was the second person to have a kidney transplant where t

Laura Thompson of Rockland All Saints, who was the second person to have a kidney transplant where the kidney had been tested in a new machine beforehand. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

Six years ago, Laura Thompson’s life changed dramatically after she and another patient became the first in the world to undergo a pioneering treatment. 

After suffering from a debilitating condition, requiring thousands of hours of treatment, she underwent a kidney transplant with a difference.

It has since become a revolutionary process that has been rolled out across the country, and one which allowed Miss Thompson the opportunity to fulfil her lifelong dream of travelling, before her death aged 74.

Born Aline Laura Thompson on May 26, 1947, in Hull, East Yorkshire, Miss Thompson enjoyed a life full of variety. 

She was married briefly before the death of her daughter, who was a toddler at the time. She then went on to have another daughter, Joanne, and was grandmother to her “pride and joy”, her six-year-old granddaughter. 

As well as co-running a successful taxi firm for the over 50s, she worked in a number of different roles including a hotel chambermaid, retail staff in shops including Foyles bookshop, and a secretary for a building firm. 

Laura Thompson, left, of Rockland All Saints, who was the second person to have a kidney transplant

Laura Thompson, left, of Rockland All Saints, who was the second person to have a kidney transplant where the kidney had been tested in a new machine beforehand. With her is her friend and carer, Shirley Colenutt. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

Close friend of 30 years and carer, Shirley Colenutt, described her as an “incredibly hard worker” who never stopped working. 

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She said: “If you named a job, she probably would have done it.” 

After a brief spell living in London, the pair moved to Rockland All Saints near Attleborough, Norfolk, together with another friend, who also passed away earlier this year, after retiring from the taxi business in 2004. 

Here she became one of the first of two people in the world who benefitted from a new treatment, which involved the kidney being tested in a new machine before a transplant. 

Miss Thompson had become reliant on three-and-a-half-hour sessions of dialysis, five days a week since suffering kidney failure in 2011. But she was put on the road to recovery after undergoing a transplant at Addenbrooke's Hospital, in Cambridge, just before Christmas 2015.  

The operation went ahead after researchers developed a new technique to test kidneys. The procedure – pioneered by Professor Mike Nicholson – allowed doctors to assess the viability of a kidney outside the body.  

The technique significantly increases the rates of successful transplants, because it allows scientists to not only assess but rejuvenate kidneys that would otherwise be rejected as not being healthy enough for transplant.   

Miss Thompson, along with Paul Southgate, 31, from Colchester, both received a kidney from a 35-year-old male donor. Those kidneys had been rejected by 24 other transplant centres, according to surgeons.  

Ms Colenutt said: “The transplant absolutely changed her life. 

“Laura, together with a young man, were the first two recipients of a ‘dead’ kidney - all others previously had come from patients on life support machines to keep the organ alive.   

“The machine has now been rolled out across the country and is used routinely for all kidney transplant operations. 

“That little kidney fought the whole way through – it was so strong and battled through. 

“The result was remarkable and Laura went on to live a very good life, travelling around the world, which is what she always wanted to do - we travelled all over the globe including places such as Iceland, Thailand, Hong Kong, Australia, and America.” 

In July this year, Miss Thompson began having problems with her legs swelling up due to an unrelated problem that had developed and led to a multitude of health issues. After 13 weeks of continued illness, she died at home on November 11. 

Ms Colenutt said: “She was a very kind-hearted woman with a good nature. She was blunt, that was the Yorkshire woman in her, but equally, she couldn’t do enough for you.” 

The funeral was held at Rockland All Saints Church on Tuesday 7, November. Donations in her memory to Kidney Research UK are welcomed. 

  • To pay tribute to a loved one, email norfolktributes@archant.co.uk  

  • To read all obituaries and tributes join the Facebook group Norfolk's Loved & Lost.

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