Meet the Donor - Kay Mason

Our regular feature to celebrate the inspirational people who have transformed the lives of others through living organ donation.

Kay Mason was the first person in the UK to donate a kidney anonymously to a stranger. She was also the driving force behind a change in The Human Tissue Act of September 2006 enabling people to donate a kidney to someone they don’t know and paving the way for other like-minded donors to follow her example. It’s a truly remarkable legacy which has helped save hundreds of lives.

Kay Mason"I used to think there needed to be a genetic link for someone to receive a transplant from a living donor, though when I found out that that wasn’t the case it just didn’t make sense to me that I couldn’t donate unless I knew the person," Kay says. 

(Picture: Kay was the first person to donate kidney to a stranger anonymously)

"I thought of it like blood donation – I just thought, why can’t I donate to someone I don’t know?"

Determined to make a difference, Kay then began a long, protracted process of trying to change the legal process around anonymous donation.

"The thinking seemed to be that you would have to be mad to want to donate to a stranger, and that if you were mad then you wouldn’t be eligible to donate! Well, here I was saying, 'I’m perfectly sane and I do want to donate!'"

Kay overcame many hurdles along the way and six years after starting the process she was finally able to donate to a stranger in 2007, aged 63.

"I remember seeing kidney transplant patients in the hospital, some of whom looked really poorly with their skin turning yellow and their features becoming bloated. I’d read about the restrictive diet kidney patients had to endure and I just really wanted to help someone live a better, healthier life.

"I’d done my homework and found that people were dying waiting for kidneys. My kidneys were healthy, and I believed I could survive comfortably with just one.

To me a stranger is just a friend you’ve never met.

"Although my four children had misgivings at the time, they were used to me doing my own thing and I know are now proud of what I did and my grandchildren are particularly impressed and boastful.

"If asked whether we would donate to a family member most people would say 'yes, of course', so why not someone else who also has a family that need them? To me a stranger is just a friend you’ve never met."

Kay keeping fit
Kay is keeping fit
Kay Mason
Kay donated her kidney in 2007

"It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Knowing that so many other people have done the same since is just terrific.

"It would be wonderful if anonymous kidney donation became even more commonplace as it only requires being fortunate enough to be in good health and able to find the time in order to transform a life by giving away a spare part leading to enduring personal satisfaction."

  • Over 6000 people are currently waiting for a transplant, with 4575 of those needing a kidney transplant.
  • Kidney donors and recipients need to be matched by blood group and tissue type, so this can mean some people can wait a long time for a deceased donor organ that is the right match. People from the same ethnic background are more likely to be a match.
  • Black, Asian, Mixed Race and minority ethnic patients often have to wait significantly longer, due to a shortage of suitably matched deceased donors from these ethnic groups.
  • You can be considered as a living kidney donor at any age. Donors are assessed on their own health and the suitability of the kidney for the intended recipient.
  • People may donate to a particular individual (a relative, friend or someone they know who is in need of a transplant) or choose to donate anonymously where their kidney will either go to a high priority patient on the transplant list or create a chain of transplants via the UK living kidney sharing scheme.

To find out more about living donation on the organ donation website.