Dr Stephen Potts is a Consultant Transplant Psychiatrist at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. He has a wealth of experience in all aspects of live donation and transplantation, with a special interest in altruistic donation.
Why did you choose transplant as a speciality?
It chose me! My previous role in liaison psychiatry included one half day per week working with the renal unit and renal transplant team, as well as providing cover to my opposite number in the liver transplant unit. I soon found this the most interesting part of my role, and really enjoyed working among a multidisciplinary team of clinicians who brought a wide range of skills, a can-do attitude, and a share common purpose.
Describe your role
Transplant psychiatrist. Colleagues elsewhere in the UK do similar work, as part of other jobs, but this is the first post set up exclusively in this way. I see recipients and donors, where appropriate, before and after transplant, referral from transplant co-ordinators, physicians or surgeons. Sometimes this is because of previous problems with anxiety, depression or similar conditions, sometimes because the referrers identify a need in their own assessments, and sometimes because donors and recipients themselves request it.
What have been the most significant advances in transplantation in your view?
The development most evident to me is the introduction of altruistic kidney donation. In a decade this has gone from something illegal in Britain to an increasingly common, and widely accepted element of the transplant service, which can make a big impact, especially when it starts a chain of donor-recipient pairs.
What are the biggest challenges in your job?
Dealing with the transplant co-ordinators......
What is the most rewarding part of your role?
Seeing someone with kidney failure, who is close to needing dialysis, getting a pre-emptive transplant from an altruistic donor; being in the operating theatre when the kidney is plumbed in, to witness the everyday miracle of it producing urine within moments of the artery clamps being released; and then seeing donor and recipient leave hospital on schedule, without complications.
What advice would you give anyone considering donating a kidney?
Read up about it: there's plenty of information out there. Talk about it, to your family, your GP, and the transplant team. And finally, rest assured that the team will not consider going ahead unless they are confident that the risks are as low as they can make them.