When she went to the beach with her partner and two dogs, Lucy Humphrey may have only had a few years to live.
But her life was saved by a chance meeting with a stranger who had been “selected” by one of her pets.
Her kidneys failed after more than 15 years of battling lupus, a disease that causes inflammation in the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and joints.
She was informed in 2019 that she might only have five years to live without a transplant despite receiving dialysis.
Shortly before that, Lucy, 44, and her partner Cenydd Owen, 49, both from Caerphilly, bought a campervan to take the dogs, two Dobermans named Jake and Indie, away on the weekend, but their plans to use it were put on hold by treatment.
They had planned a two-day break to Aberystwyth in June 2021 – four-and-a-half years after Lucy’s kidney failure – but she was too unwell to travel that far.
With their dogs by their sides, Lucy and Cenydd parked their campervan next to the beach and prepared a barbecue.
Lucy remarked, “Indie kept going over to this woman who was about 100 yards away.”
Because a large Doberman can be somewhat terrifying, she continued going back and forth to her, and we kept calling her back.
“Cenydd kept calling her back, so we assumed she had food or something. Finally, we headed over to apologize to her.
Katie James, a 40-year-old woman from Barry, was the stranger.
She was crocheting while sitting on the sand, and it turned out that she didn’t mind Indie approaching her.
Lucy explained, “I actually asked her to our barbecue since she was actually having quite a miserable day herself.
Surprised, Katie explained: “Oh I’ve just gone on the kidney donation register!”
“Who are you going to donate your kidney to?” asked Cenydd.
“Anyone who wants it,” Katie replied.
Katie and Lucy swapped numbers and contacted a donor coordinator the next day.
“She had all the tests and it turned out she was a perfect match,” said Lucy.
“A surgeon told us it’s a one in 22 million chance to find the perfect match, and that’s what I needed as I’ve got Lupus.
“The transplant took a little while, as Covid was going on at the time, so it kept being postponed.”
In the lead up, Katie set up a group on WhatsApp called The Kidney Gang.
“All her visits to the hospital she was updating us and sending recorded messages and pictures,” said Cenydd.
“I’ve still got all the recordings and how excited she was that she was doing something good. It’s just mad a total stranger and Lucy’s got her life back.
“For the last five years, she couldn’t drink anything and she was restricted on what she could eat. Now, she can eat and drink what she likes and we’re starting to get our life back to normal.”
Despite complications in the initial weeks afterwards, Lucy said the transplant, which took place on 3 October 2022 at University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, was a success.
“We went in together on the Sunday, and on the Monday morning they took us down, took my kidney out, popped it into Lucy and Bob’s your uncle,” said Katie.
“I feel really lucky that I got to know Lucy, I know that its worked and I know that she’s out there living her life. To me, there’s been no negative to it whatsoever.
“I feel really proud of myself, I get embarrassed sometimes though as every time I’m out with my nan she will tell a stranger ‘oh my granddaughter donated a kidney’.
“It’s the best thing I’ve ever done and I feel so proud of myself and my family are proud of me.”
“It was the fact that Indie almost sussed her out and chose her,” said Lucy.
“They did tell me a few years back I only had about five years, dialysis doesn’t work forever, and you can only have so many access lines put in as well.
“I really needed this transplant, I’d been on the waiting list for several years. It’s completely changed my life already.”
Cenydd described Katie as a “wonderful, selfless person”.
However, he said: “She doesn’t like my jokes, and said if I don’t stop telling her jokes, she wants her kidney back. She never signed up for my jokes.
“We ended up going to Barry by total chance, meeting Katie by total chance, and Lucy’s ended up with a kidney.
“We want to show that there is always hope for people. Never give in, because you never know, we weren’t even going to go to the beach that day. There’s a lot of good people out there.”