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Swansea man saves best friend's life by donating kidney

Steven Smith had been experiencing cramps and occasional vomiting, but didn't think anything was seriously wrong.

That was until 2020, when a routine blood test revealed his kidney function was down to 20%. He was told if it got any lower he would need a transplant.

Two years later, it had dropped to 5%. Steven told his best friend, Kael Ace.

"Kael said, 'have mine'. At first I thought he was joking but he was completely serious," Steven said.

Kael went for tests and the results came back as a perfect match.

Steven, from Clydach, Swansea, was told he could be waiting two years for the surgery on the NHS and would need to start dialysis before that.

"It was a long process," Kael remembered. "Lots of blood tests, kidney function tests, but I just hoped everything would work out.

"It goes then to a donor board, to make sure there's no money or bribery involved."

Steven explained how the friends used pictures to verify their 10-year friendship, which started when they joined the same rugby team.

"They then interviewed us separately to make sure nothing untoward was going on," he said.

Steven was best man at Kael's wedding last October.

"I couldn't see my best friend that ill or even pass away, and not to do anything about it," Kael said.

Kael's family were initially shocked, but "came around in the end, after I'd explained the process".

By September 2023, Steven's kidney function had dropped to 2% and he was having dialysis three times a week.

Kael said it was difficult seeing his friend deteriorate.

"It was mentally draining seeing your best man like that," he said.

But Kael's donation meant that, after all the checks were completed, the pair could start preparing for surgery at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.

'His colour was back'

The operation on 19 February was a success and the best friends are both doing well.

"Straight after the surgery I felt so much better," Steve said. "I hadn't felt like that in about three years."

Kael said it was a "joy" to see his friend looking better.

"I could tell straight away," he said, explaining how at first they could only talk to each other via a video call.

"I could just tell through the phone that his colour was back in his face, and he just had a warm glow."

Steven has urged people to go to the GP if they sense anything is wrong.

"I was just putting it off and putting it off, but looking back if I hadn't gone for a blood test I might not be here today.

"It's so important."