Lad meets families of donors who saved him – with TWO transplants 20 years apart


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Jack Goodland, 24, has had two life saving operations during his lifetime at he was diagnosed with a rare disease which causes kidney damage and had to have a transplant aged two.

Jack has made friends for life with his donor Giorgos (left) with the pair meeting up this summer
Jack has made friends for life with his donor Giorgos (left) with the pair meeting up this summer

A tide of emotion swept over Jack Goodland and his family as they met the people who saved him – with two transplants 20 years apart.

The 24-year-old owes his life to the parents of a five-year-old who died and a young man who donated a kidney after being touched by a YouTube video. Jack got to meet the families of both donors and thanks his lucky stars.

He says: “I’m so grateful to have been saved not once, but twice and I owe my life to these amazing people and their families.

“It’s a really difficult decision to donate when you’ve lost a child and I will be forever grateful.”

Jack was joined at the meetings by his mum and stepdad – Maggie and Tony Ayre.

Aged 2, and kidney transplant No1 for young Jack

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Former nurse Maggie, 50, says: “Meeting the family who saved your son is really emotional. It’s such an incredible gift to give someone.

“When the donor is deceased, there is such tragedy behind it too. To meet one family, and then another family 20 years later, has been such a privilege. We can’t thank both of these families enough, for saving Jack and giving our son a second, and third, chance at life.”

Jack’s incredibly journey goes back to when he was just a few weeks old, when he was diagnosed with posterior urethral valves – blockages which can cause kidney damage.

Maggie, of Yeovil, Somerset, explains: “When he was born, there was no amniotic fluid around Jack and he had breathing difficulties, so had to be taken into special care. He was in hospital for 10 days before he was allowed home, but he didn’t thrive.

Aged 22 and op No2, when stepdad Tony swapped a kidney

“I took him back to hospital when he was seven weeks old and blood tests showed there was something wrong with his kidneys, which was devastating news.”

Jack had to go on a dialysis machine at six months old, which did the job of his kidneys – cleaning his blood.

He needed a transplant but that could only happen when he was two. Jack went on the waiting list in June 1999 and in November that year Maggie got a call to say a kidney was available.

The operation at Southmead Hospital in Bristol was a success and toddler Jack was able to live a normal life.

Jack waiting in hospital for his first kidney transplant

Maggie wrote a thank you letter to the parents who donated the kidney, which was passed on through the hospital.

When Jack was seven, they received a reply. It was from the family of five-year-old Emily Williamson, who had died from meningitis.

In 2003 they met up in France, where Emily’s parents Gordon and Susie had moved to, from London.

Maggie, who also has daughter Louise, 28, says: “To lose a child like that is tragic and our hearts went out to them. It was incredible to meet Emily’s family. How do you say thank you to someone who has given your son that gift of life? There are no words to express our gratitude. We stayed with them in France and have kept in touch.

“They follow Jack on Facebook to see how he is doing, which is lovely. There is such a special bond between us all.”

Young Jack, front, meets family of his first donor Emily on trip to France back in 2003

Emily’s dad Gordon, of Basse-Normandie, told the Sunday Mirror: “There are no words that can be said that will console a parent in the loss of their child.

“But there is the knowledge that lives can be saved by the gifting of a loved one’s organs. We were rewarded by being welcomed into Jack’s family and are able to watch as they grow and enjoy life together. We have been rewarded seeing their joy.”

Doctors told Maggie that Emily’s kidney would last 10 years. But, amazingly, it lasted 20. In 2017, Jack was put on the transplant list again.

The second donation came about when stepdad Tony, 60 – a retired aircraft engineer – put himself forward for a paired exchange programme.

Jack alongside his donor Giorgios at get-together with Tony, Maggie and Ruth at the front

He donated his kidney to a stranger, in return for a donation for his son.

Maggie explains: “Tony wasn’t a good enough match to give Jack one of his kidneys, but we could ensure he got his transplant by Tony donating to someone else on the list.”

Jack’s second transplant was in July 2019, again at Southmead Hospital.

He recalls: “The transplant was a huge success. Tony and I were in opposite beds in hospital and we had lots of laughs together. I couldn’t believe how alive I felt afterwards. I’d felt so exhausted before the transplant, and now I had so much energy.”

Organ donation is done anonymously – though recipients and their families can seek to make contact via the hospital.

Maggie did – and they discovered electrical engineer Giorgos Karatziolas, 26, was the living donor who saved Jack’s life second time around. They exchanged letters and arranged to meet.

Maggie goes on: “He told us he had watched a YouTube video about altruistic kidney donation and felt he had to do it himself. So he approached the hospital and said that he wanted to be a donor. We met up and it was amazing. He came to lunch at our house and we all got on so well.

“He was thrilled at how well Jack was. He wanted us to meet the rest of his family too. We went to his mum’s house and had the most amazing celebration. It was lovely. And it was very special to meet Giorgos’ mum Ruth. I felt such a connection with her. Her son had risked his life to save my son.

“She will always be very special to me and we all love Giorgos. He feels like he’s part of our family now.

“We feel so lucky to have met both the families who have saved our son. Without them, he wouldn’t be here today.”

Ruth, of West Bay, Dorset, says: “We got to meet Jack and his lovely family and spent a wonderful afternoon together.

“Jack’s wellbeing really matters to us now – we will always feel a connection t o h i m . He’s an honorary member of our family!”

Jack recalls the first time he had contact from Giorgos. He says: “At the time of my transplant I knew nothing about my donor, other than that he was a man. I was thrilled to receive a letter from him telling me all about himself – and surprised to find out he was only two years older than me.

“I’m sure he will be my friend for ever. He literally saved my life.”

The law around organ donation changed in 2020. All adults in England are now considered to have agreed to be an organ donor when they die unless they opt out or are in an excluded group.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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