A SIBLING of 11 has faced her fear of needles to save the life of her brother by donating a kidney to him.

Cathy Hendrick, 27, underwent major surgery to donate one of her kidneys to 18-year-old brother Callum, who had been told that his had failed.

“About two years ago he was put into hospital,” said Cathy.

“He got pneumonia and that’s when they discovered he had total kidney failure. He was told there and then he needed an operation.”

Callum was put on dialysis, a limited diet and was restricted to drinking just a litre of water a day.

He was placed on the organ transplant waiting list while Cathy underwent tests to ensure she was able to donate – but for her the matter was never in doubt.

She added: “I took one look at him and thought, ‘I’m doing it.’ We went into the waiting room and I said, ‘I’m doing it. No questions’.”

Cathy, of Bridge Street, Andover, comes from a big family, but it soon became apparent that of all her siblings, she was the best placed to help her brother.

“I am one of 11 children. I’ve got six brothers and four sisters. As soon as I saw him in hospital I knew it was going to be me.”

Although Callum’s siblings all wanted to help, Cathy was told the surgery would leave her so weak she would be limited to carrying nothing heavier than a loaf of bread.

Many of her brothers and sisters have children or work manual labour jobs, meaning they were not in a position to undergo such a major procedure, while others were too young to donate.

“They really wanted to do it, but I understand why they couldn’t.

“I didn’t have that, so I was willing to do it.”

She added: “They keep reminding me how great a thing I’ve done. That I literally saved his life. It’s not until you get told about the millionth time that you actually start to believe it.”

In the months leading up to the operation at the end of February, Cathy underwent countless blood and urine tests, MRI scans and more. The needles involved especially took some getting used to.

“Me and my brother were both scared of needles,” she said.

“When we were both having blood tests getting ready for the operation, we were both laying in the chair, pale-faced, saying, ‘someone get us some water.’

“I don’t think you can get over that fear easily, but it has helped. I was definitely a fainter before, but I’m no longer a fainting risk.”

Cathy still remembers how she felt on the day of the surgery.

“I was frightened, I’m not going to lie. To calm myself down I was listening to music as you do.

“But then they gave me my surgical gown and stockings and told me to get changed and I sat on the bed and they escorted me down. That’s when it starts to hit you.

“Once you are there you are like, ‘this is it.’”

The procedure lasted more than four hours and Cathy said the pain in the following week was ‘awful’ but a very slight mishap meant it was not the only thing on her mind coming out of the op.

“Somehow my eye was open during the surgery. I couldn’t see, but my eye dried up.

“There I was coming back like a pirate!”

Callum’s surgery was even more complex – a robot-assisted kidney transplantation method where he would benefit from a lesser recovery time.

He had initially been unsure about the idea of the mechanical aid, but opted to go ahead as his experience could then be used to help others in future.

“He went for the robot-assisted surgery, which is still in its early stages and still in its research.

“He was very cautious to begin with. I said if it was my choice I would go for the robot-assisted, as it takes less time.

“It also helps with making it easier for people in future. So you are helping others with this method.”

The experience has, unsurprisingly, strengthened the pair’s bond and it has also come with other perks.

“This has made us closer. There’s always a part of me inside of him now.

“I don’t have to get him a Christmas present now for a few years which is good!”