Desperately-ill British father stunned to receive kidney offer via Facebook from distant cousin who lives in the U.S.
Andy had only seen his American cousin twice before John offered to donate his kidney as a living donorJohn said: 'In the grand scheme of things it doesn't feel like a sacrifice'
12:51 GMT, 2 July 2012
A British father has been offered the chance of a life-saving kidney from a distant cousin in America – after he wrote about his plight on Facebook.
Andy Williamson, 44, has polycystic kidney disease and has been undergoing dialysis every day for the last year as he waits for a new donor organ.
He began documenting his illness on the popular social networking site and was stunned when he received a message from a distant cousin who lives in America.
Amazing offer: John Williamson (left) has come forward as a potential kidney donor for his distant cousin Andy, pictured with his daughter Dora aged 2 and his wife Suzy
John Williamson – who has only met Andy on two occasions – wrote offer to be a live donor for his cousin.
When Andy accepted, the advertising account manager took a holiday from his job and flew to the UK to undergo tests to see whether his kidney is suitable.
John, 41, and Andy, a father-of-one, now face an anxious wait to see whether the transplant can go ahead – and so far doctors say it is looking promising.
Grateful Andy, a musician who lives in Ashburton, Devon, with wife Suzy, 42 and daughter Doro, two, said he was 'amazed' at the generousity of his cousin.
He said: 'We don’t actually know each other that well, having grown up on different sides of the Atlantic, but we became friends on Facebook a couple of years ago.
'John saw that I was in need of a new kidney, and offered to be a living donor.
'It’s one of those things where it’s difficult to find the words. It’s a mixture of gratitude and just thankfulness that he’s come forward to help.
'I know from my previous transplant the difference it makes to me having a healthy working kidney, it’s just indescribable.'
Family matters: American cousin John is 3rd from left (in yellow) while Andy is on his right. Andy's dad Ron is standing with baby on back, while John's day is standing far right
A collect of Andy with his daughter Dora. John said seeing photos of them on Facebook prompted him to try and help
John’s dad also called John was brother of Andy’s father Ron. They were two of four brothers who grew up in Glasgow, Scotland.
In the early 1960s, John got married to Marie who said a condition of their marriage was to move abroad to get away from her mother. So John and Marie moved to Canada where Andy’s cousin, John, who was one of four children, was born in 1970.
The cousins first met when Andy, then aged 11, and his family went to stay in Canada with John, then aged nine, and his family in 1979. John later moved to America with his family in 1981 where he has stayed ever since.
The pair did not have any contact for more than 20 years until 2003, when they met at Andy’s uncle and John’s father’s second wedding – but the pair only spoke briefly.
Around two years ago they befriended each other on Facebook and used the social networking site to send messages and view each other’s photographs.
Andy’s condition is a hereditary disease which his mother, who also went on dialysis, suffered from.
He was diagnosed at 21 but only started showing symptoms in his 30s and finally went on dialysis at 38.
Andy (left) with John: Doctors are checking whether John is physically and psychologically suitable
Andy was on daily dialysis for 18 months before a kidney donor came forward in August 2007. However, that kidney failed last year and he is now back on dialysis.
He started using a new phone app called Four Square for his iPhone in December which allows users to check-in to visited places.
Andy said he was playing around with the app while at hospital one day which alerted his Facebook friends, including his cousin John, that he was on dialysis again.
He then continued to use the social networking website to update friends and family on his condition.
Just a month later in January, Andy received an unexpected message from his cousin – offering him one of his kidneys.
Andy said: 'It was completely out of the blue. We hadn’t been in close contact over the years.'
John said he was moved to offer his kidney to Andy after seeing photographs of his cousin with daughter Doro.
The father-of-five and grandfather-of-two said: 'Seeing Andy’s situation online, and seeing pictures of him with his daughter Doro, I felt moved, and there was a little voice in my head that said, ‘you should do this’.
'Having very young daughters at home as well, I understand how much energy it takes to have young children in the house and how difficult that must be for Andy.
'/07/02/article-2167650-13E3B0C7000005DC-249_634x372.jpg” width=”634″ height=”372″ alt=”The Williamson brothers, (L-R) John (American John's father) James, Bill and Ron (Andy's father) grew up in Glasgow” class=”blkBorder” />
Family tree: The Williamson brothers, (L-R) John (American John's father) James, Bill and Ron (Andy's father) grew up in Glasgow
John, from Michigan, flew into the UK on June 24 and returned to America on June 30. He underwent tests at Southmead Hospital in Bristol to check that his kidney is suitable.
The process is overseen by Kay Hamilton, one of the living donor transplant co-ordinators at Southmead Hospital’s Renal Unit.
She said: 'It’s a really rigorous investigation process and the donor’s safety is of the highest priority to us.
'If anything is found to be unsuitable, whether psychologically or physically, then we stop the whole process. We’d love to give a kidney transplant to everyone who needs one, but not at any anyone else’s expense.'