Kidney Transplant Patient Villy Nielsen Is Still Alive 50 Years Later

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Kidney Transplant Patient Villy Nielsen Is Still Alive 50 Years Later


72-year-old Villy Nielsen underwent surgery in September 1969 after his sister, Karen, 69 saved his life, becoming one of the world’s “longest surviving kidney transplant” patients, reports Joe Roberts of the UK’s highest-circulating newspaper Metro. Four-year-old Villy, who was living in Denmark back then, suffered a “freak accident” which led doctors to discover his failing kidneys. 

He recounts, “My mother was doing the weekly washing, long before washing machines were in general use, and as she picked up a bucket of boiling water from the cauldron I ran towards her, tipping boiling water out of the bucket and scalding my head.” Villy’s mother put him on the back of the bike and cycled “about half a mile to the nearest hospital.” 


Photo Credit: Jerry Syder (via Metro)


The family did not own a car, but riding a bicycle was quicker than calling for an ambulance. At the hospital, doctors took samples of Villy’s urine and found out that his kidneys were quickly shrinking. He was expected to live until the age of 21. His health deteriorated and by age 21, Villy urgently needed a transplant, as he only had a 32% chance of surviving, according to doctors. 

Fortunately, Villy has two sisters and four brothers. All of his siblings were tested and his ideal match was Karen, who was only 19-years-old at that time. Karen “bravely agreed” to donate one of her kidneys to Villy. “After a seven-hour operation I felt that my life had really begun,” he reminisces. He was ready to head home after 28 days, feeling extremely grateful for his sister’s “generous gift.” 


Photo Credit: Jerry Syder (via Metro)


According to the 72-year-old survivor, his sister jokes “that she wouldn’t have gone through the ordeal if she’d known that the odds were stacked against us.” For the last 25 years, Villy, who lives with his wife Janet, has been “looked after by the renal team” at St. George’s Hospital in south London. He goes to the clinic every three months for a check-up and he also drops by a clinic to have his skin checked for cancer. 




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