Could you donate an organ?

It’s been an important few weeks for us Yellies. Steve, my stepdad, has just undergone an operation removing his kidney. He’s not ill, thank goodness, he’s just decided to donate it. To a stranger.

Donating an organ to a stranger is a lengthy, costly and exhausting procedure. Steve has undergone around a year of medical tests to make sure his kidney is up to scratch, and that he’s in a physical (and psychological) state strong enough to wave goodbye to an organ. He lost weight, took countless blood tests, fasted and cycled across west Yorkshire to get to hospital appointments.

The operation was a success, and he’s now recovering in his onesie and a beanie hat at home for the next few weeks. He can’t do anything too strenuous, his meds can make him ill, his appetite is off, and he can’t drive or take the dog for a walk. Instead of feeling lighter, due to the absence of a hunk of meat inside of him, he is bloated from the things that have been pumped inside of him. He feels like a ‘rearranged suitcase’.

It all seems a lot. Especially when you consider he has never met, and most likely never will meet the person who’s receiving the spare organ. But he hasn’t complained- even where he’s had to cut out his beloved slice of bread before tea, or after an unpleasant stay in the hospital. He’s saving someone’s life, and that’s enough for him.

I couldn’t be prouder. He has no reason to voluntarily offer up his kidney, other than wanting to improve a life of a complete stranger. If you ever doubted altruism existed, then this would put you straight. Wanting no recognition or praise for his undoubtedly noble act, he’s quite content shuffling around the house making Coke Floats, happy in the knowledge that somewhere, a person can continue to live because of him.

Could you donate an organ? I’m sure we’d all like to think we’re dutifully to chop off limbs and spare bits to save a loved one in a desperate and unfortunate situation- but could you do it for a stranger?

It’s quite easy to donate blood- safe in the knowledge that our hearts will be powering to replete our levels. Once you offer up something your body can’t simply restock, it’s a different story.

Steve is one of the first hundred people in the UK to donate to a stranger. The name for a living donor of organs is an “altruistic giver”, and is spot on. Steve, and my family members, went to some lengths to ensure this donation would run smoothly. It’s not always been a walk in the park, and there are considerable improvements to be made to the entire donation procedure. But somewhere in London, a young woman has been given a new lease of life. And that’s the important thing.

Here is my virtual hat off, round of applause and tear of pride in my eye to Steve Yates.

If you fancy following in Steve’s footsteps and handing over your spare kidney to someone who could really do with it, or if you’re just interested in the process and people’s motivations for altruistic giving, check out this amazing but small campaign: One’s Enough. There’s also a fascinating article on the rise of altruistic givers in The Guardian here.


Things to do while Facebook is down


Calm down, I have a plan.

  1. Go to sleep. It is twenty to twelve on a Monday, after all.
  2. Read something. Something that isn’t your mum’s mate complaining about the local council, and especially something that isn’t that girl you barely know having a status update argument with someone you aren’t friends with anyway. Like a book!
  3. You definitely have an essay due in, or something. You must have. 
  4. Comfort eat. Immediately raid the fridge. Doesn’t matter if that massive block of chocolate is your flatmates, THIS IS A CRISIS.
  5. Blog about it. QUICK, BEFORE IT’S NOT RELEVANT.

I say goodbye to my dread(ful)locks…

Once a year, my hair gets so long that I regularly chew it while trying to speak. At this point, most normal people would get it cut, but I’m usually too broke/indifferent to do this, so I tend to continue ignoring the increasingly knotted mass on top of my head until my face is almost wholly obscured.

Eventually, I accept defeat and book myself a hair appointment. Well, my mum usually tells me it’s time for an overhaul and orders me to go and get it cut, for god’s sake, and I find a hairdresser that doesn’t look too intimidating/has a student discount and begrudgingly take a seat.

So, this Friday, horribly hungover from the Linguistic’s Christmas meal wine (and cocktails, and Willow tequila), I headed into town to 3D Hair Design on the Shambles. It’s been twelve long months since I got it done last (I’m the opposite of your stereotypical girly girl), and I really wasn’t looking forward to this.

Because I never attend to my hair, going to a hairdressers makes me nervous. I don’t feel particularly feminine enough, I get embarrassed because I don’t understand the lingo (what does feathering even mean?)  and I have to admit that I don’t use any hair care- of any kind, by any stretch of the imagination.

You could practically smell the shock registering when my hairdresser untied my locks out of the bun I’d stuck it in. “Wow, there really is a lot of it“. Unsure of how to react to this, I just giggled nervously, then quietly apologised.

(My hair now, three “before” shots and the hairdresser’s floor)

After some moments of recovery, she’d convinced me that the only way to make my hair healthy again is to reduce it from it’s half-way-down-my-back length to just over my shoulders. Over an hour later, after a few more stunned comments about my hairs uncanny ability to knot when you weren’t looking, and lopping off over half of my hair, we were done.

It’s still a surprise to me that I can now carry a shoulder bag without trapping my hair painfully underneath the straps, or sleep in a bed without leaving an array of split ends behind. The shock of having such shorter hair (I know it doesn’t look that dramatic, but it certainly feels it to me!) hasn’t worn off just yet, but I actually quite like it. I might even go so far as to say I’m going to actually look after it from now on, though don’t quote me on that.


Review: Rats’ Tales (The Yorker Archives)

Ever feel like your childhood wasn’t traumatising enough? That’s because you didn’t get to see Rats’ Tales at the age of seven. Ah- don’t be put off. This peculiar take of fairytales on stage is probably the best piece of theatre you will see this winter.

Carol Ann Duffy-of poet laureate and GCSE English Literature Syllabus fame- has dramatized The Pied Piper and other less famous children’s stories into a beautifully sinister and charming show. Using a cast of incredibly talented actors, two impressive musicians and a whole host of local school children dressed as rats, these traditional tales are brought to life in a way you weren’t quite expecting.

Each of the eight rats’ tales retells a fairytale astonishingly. Including truly beautiful photography and excellent use of live music and floating televisions, the script is wonderfully lyrical at points- really charming and enchanting the audience.

Using stunning physical theatre, and utilising every aspect of their space (including the audience to hold up props); the in-the-round stage is the perfect setting, as rats and children appear from all corners, and the audience is delighted from all angles.

Perhaps too dark for younger children, the overarching theme of stolen childhood can be all too realistic at points. The blood on the hands of the parents clawing at mountain walls that their children have just disappeared into, courtesy of the Pied Piper’s little strop, for instance, might be a little much for the faint hearted.

Equally haunting as is it is delightful, writers and cast have balanced out the sinister nature and deeply emotional scenes with some light-hearted humour- use of song and the child troll being personal highlights- and some witty social commentary for good measure- another highlight being the politician’s use of “we’re a Big Society” to refuse payment to the Pied Piper.

One criticism I have of the show is the sometimes tenuous links between the separate stories. Each, in their own right, was equally spectacular and well performed, yet the general motif of rats weren’t as present as one might expect in a show called Rats’ Tales. Saying that, the final story ties them all together, only feeling a touch last minute and perfectly performed.

The talent of the tiny cast cannot be overstated. As each actor played several different roles through the course of the show, we were really treated to a full set of the cast’s skills; from playing a sycophantic politician to a little lost boy or from playing a doll who turned into an oversized woman to a tap-dancing mule. This is one of the most creative and exciting pieces of theatre out there now.

Rats’ Tales is at the Manchester Royal Exchange until 12th January 2013.

Originally published here