Best friend gives greatest gift of all...

Kidney transplant'Paul Hornberger
Kidney transplant'Paul Hornberger

MOST best friends probably wouldn’t mind swapping DVD collections, or lending each other a shirt and jeans for a night out.

Some might even stretch to handing over a spare £20 for a trip down the pub.

But Andy Sheppard has proved he really is a mate in a million after donating one of his kidneys to best friend Paul Hornberger.

The pair, who both live in Daventry, met more than 20 years ago when they started working together at Ford Motor Company on the Royal Oak industrial estate.

And last year Andy saved Paul’s life after he suffered double kidney failure and was told he could have died.

On April 4 Paul, 51, was cutting his grass at home in Larch Drive, Ashby Fields, when he collapsed.

He spent two weeks in Northampton General Hospital and after treatment was put on dialysis three times a week. He was told he’d probably only have three years to live unless a donor was found.

The following month Andy stepped forward, and after a gruelling medical process he was given the all clear to donate one of his own kidneys.

The operation took place in Leicester on October 27 and both friends are now living a full life once again.

Dad-of-two Paul said: “What Andy has done is amazing. I call him my brother now because that’s what he is to me. I can’t even describe how it feels for someone to turn round and say they will do what he has done.

“He’s definitely saved my life because I was told I might only live for three years on dialysis because of my blood pressure problems.”

Paul went from weighing 16 stone down to nine-and-a-half stone during treatment.

But now he is fighting fit and wants to make others aware of how they can prevent themselves going through the same trauma.

He added: “I still have hospital appointments but they are less frequent. My recovery has been good and I feel fantastic. I was on 70 tablets a day but now that’s gone down to 14. I’m back at work part-time and really enjoying it.

“I recommend for everyone to get their blood pressure checked regularly. I didn’t go to the doctors for 10 years before this. My blood pressure was high and that led to my kidney problems. It’s also important for people to know that friends can donate organs as well as family.”

Best mate Andy, 48, didn’t think twice before offering to help Paul in any way possible.

He said: “It was a massive blow when we found out Paul had this.

“Originally I thought it was only family members who could donate and I thought they had to be a perfect match.

“But then I came round Paul’s house one day and he had some literature which I read.

“Only then did I realise that friends can donate and the kidney doesn’t have to be a perfect match.

“Our blood group had to be the same, and thankfully we were both O Positive. So I said ‘ok the least I can do is get tested and see what they say’.

“We went to Leicester General Hospital and had a talk from the surgeon and went through everything.”

Andy then confirmed he wanted to be tested and spent the next few months undergoing blood tests, chest x-rays, heart tests, a CT scan, ultrasound and kidney tests.

He added: “I got the all clear and on October 27 we both had the operation. It was keyhole surgery and they took my kidney out in the morning and put it into Paul’s body the same afternoon.

“I came home two days later and just got stronger and stronger. I’m fine now and can live my life to the full.

“It was a massive emotional roller coaster but a great success. I’ve got friends and family who were very supportive throughout.

“I see Paul getting better every day and it just makes it all worthwhile. It’s tough but ultimately you can help somebody get their life back, and that’s the message we want to get out.”

Paul added: “We can’t thank Ford Motor Company enough. They supported us both through everything and paid us sick pay in full, which they didn’t have to do.

“And Leicester General Hospital were just magnificent for both of us. The treatment and care was second to none.

“Now we are just living our lives and enjoying every minute.”