1. Headline
  1. Headline
Image: Nicholas Crace
Courtesy Nicholas Crace
“I couldn’t have lived with myself with the knowledge that I had had the chance of changing someone’s life and turned it down,” said Nicholas Crace, 83, Britain’s oldest living kidney donor.
By Laura T. Coffey
TODAY contributor
updated 5/31/2012 9:14:49 AM ET 2012-05-31T13:14:49

Nicholas Crace is no stranger to giving to strangers. He spent most of his career directing charities that helped the mentally ill, terminally ill, elderly and others in need.

He also gave mightily to Brigid, his wife of 57 years. After she had a stroke in 2005, he cared for her for six years until she died in the summer of 2011 — and then he was astonished to have time on his hands.

Crace, who lives in the village of Overton in Hampshire, England, became a volunteer driver for a local hospice, but that didn’t keep him busy enough. The lifelong blood donor wanted to continue giving blood, but he was told the cut-off age for donations was 70. He began thinking about donating his bone marrow, but the age limit for that was even younger: 40.

What Crace did instead set records in the United Kingdom and captured the attention of doctors on this side of the Atlantic: At age 83, he became Britain’s oldest living kidney donor and the country’s oldest “altruistic donor.” He opted to give a kidney to a complete stranger.

‘The chance of changing someone’s life’
Crace shared a detailed and thoughtful diary of his journey toward kidney donation with TODAY.com. In it, he reflected on the practical and emotional motives that prompted him.

“The Practical are the facts that I am fit, have no dependents or responsibilities, am retired and have plenty of time,” Crace wrote. “The Emotional are that I have led an easy, comfortable and selfish life, enjoyed excellent health and want to repay some of my good fortune.”

Crace said he realized thousands of people are waiting for a suitable kidney, and many die while waiting.

“I couldn’t have lived with myself with the knowledge that I had had the chance of changing someone’s life and turned it down,” he said.

‘Friends’ with benefits: Facebook fueling organ donations

Dr. Bryan Becker, a transplant physician in Chicago and past president of the National Kidney Foundation, described Crace’s act as exceptional.

“It’s unusual for someone in their 80s to be a living kidney donor,” Becker told TODAY.com. “Living donation is rare in the U.S. even for individuals in their 70s.”

The National Kidney Foundation noted that transplants performed from living donors have advantages over transplants from deceased donors: A kidney from a living donor usually functions immediately, and survival rates of living donor kidneys are higher.

  1. More in Good News!
    1. Wheeled wedding unites couple with cerebral palsy 
    2. After 25 years, two friends win $14 million jackpot
    3. Teaching by toes: Armless tutor inspires students
    4. 'Random Acts of Flowers' cheer the ill, elderly, lonely
    5. At 102, she changes oil on her 82-year-old car

“Altruistic donors are very special people,” Annabel Ferriman, chairwoman of the British charity Give a Kidney — One’s Enough, said in a statement. “They have the imagination to understand the suffering that people go through on dialysis while waiting for a transplant, and the courage and generosity to do something about it.”

Since 2006, when an altruistic living kidney donation campaign kicked off in the United Kingdom, nearly 100 men and women have given healthy kidneys to people they didn’t know, Ferriman said.

In the United States, 160 people donated kidneys anonymously last year, and 443 donated kidneys to strangers through a paired exchange program, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

Kidney stone rate doubles in last 16 years

  1. Stories from
    1. A Foodie's Guide to the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament
    2. Nine-Year-Old Girl Accidentally Kills Gun Instructor with Uzi
    3. Paris Hilton's Brother Conrad Hilton Hurt in Car Crash Near Palm Springs
    4. Michael Cera Once Pranked a Sundance Audience with a Question About His Nonexistent Son (VIDEO)
    5. Chris Soules Is the New Bachelor

In Crace’s case, it was important the he had the physical fortitude to do what he wanted to do. Over a period of six months, he had to make 14 separate visits to the hospital for tests and examinations. Each visit required a round trip of just under 100 miles.

In his journal, he recounted how delighted doctors were when tests showed he possessed “Formula One kidneys.”

“It seems that my filtration rate was 95 milliliters a minute compared with 50 milliliters a minute average for someone my age, and is better than most 40-year-olds,” he wrote.

Story: Accomplishing amazing athletic feats — in their 80s and 90s

Idealistic aims
Finally, in late April of this year, Crace underwent a successful surgery and headed home from the hospital with just one kidney. He said he was elated to hear that the anonymous recipient of his kidney, a woman in her 60s, was recovering well.

Crace wrote in his diary about an additional motive — a romantic one — that inspired him to donate a kidney to a stranger:

“The Romantic is best summed up by Tennyson:

‘Death closes all; but something ere the end,
‘Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
‘Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.’

Need a Coffey break? Friend TODAY.com writer Laura T. Coffey on Facebook, follow her on Twitter  or read more of her stories at LauraTCoffey.com.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Photos: The Tutu Project

loading photos...
  1. The Tutu Project

    For the past nine years, professional photographer Bob Carey has been traveling the country and, using a remote control, taking portraits of himself wearing nothing but a pink tutu. His inspiration is his wife, Linda, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in 2003 and has already outlived her prognosis. Through the sale of prints and T-shirts from his photos as well as donations, the Careys are giving support to other cancer patients in need. Bob also hopes to publish a book of the photos. For more information, visit his website: thetutuproject.com. (Courtesy of Bob Carey / thetutuproject.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. (Courtesy of Bob Carey / thetutuproject.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. (Courtesy of Bob Carey / thetutuproject.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. (Courtesy of Bob Carey / thetutuproject.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. (Courtesy of Bob Carey / thetutuproject.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. (Courtesy of Bob Carey / thetutuproject.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. (Courtesy of Bob Carey / thetutuproject.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. (Courtesy of Bob Carey / thetutuproject.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. (Courtesy of Bob Carey / thetutuproject.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. (Courtesy of Bob Carey / thetutuproject.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. (Courtesy of Bob Carey / thetutuproject.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. (Courtesy of Bob Carey / thetutuproject.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. (Courtesy of Bob Carey / thetutuproject.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. (Courtesy of Bob Carey / thetutuproject.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. (Courtesy of Bob Carey / thetutuproject.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. (Courtesy of Bob Carey / thetutuproject.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Times Square (Courtesy of Bob Carey / thetutuproject.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. (Courtesy of Bob Carey / thetutuproject.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. High Desert Road (Courtesy of Bob Carey / thetutuproject.com) Back to slideshow navigation


  20. For more information about the Tutu Project, visit, thetutuproject.com . (Courtesy of Bob Carey / thetutuproject.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  1. Courtesy of Bob Carey / thetutuproject.com
    Above: Slideshow (20) The Tutu Project
  2. EPA, Reuters
    Slideshow (52) Guinness World Records 2012 - 2012
  3. Image: Junrey Balawing, Reynaldo Balawing, Craig Glenday, Filomeno Sy
    Bullit Marquez / AP
    Slideshow (48) Guinness World Records 2012 - 2011
  4. Guinness World Records
    Slideshow (56) Guinness World Records 2012 - 2010

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. Freed American journalist: ‘Overwhelmed with emotion’

    Peter Theo Curtis, the American writer who was held captive for two years in Syria and released this week spoke briefly on Wednesday and asked for time to bond with his family.

    8/27/2014 2:48:14 PM +00:00 2014-08-27T14:48:14
  1. When do doctors, chefs and cleaners buy generic?

    In drugstores and supermarkets, we’re faced with the choices constantly: Should we buy name-brand products, or save a bit and go generic? Some research suggests that pharmacists and chefs are more likely to buy generic.

    8/27/2014 12:24:21 PM +00:00 2014-08-27T12:24:21
  1. TODAY

    video 9-year-old girl accidentally kills instructor during shooting lesson

    8/27/2014 11:37:50 AM +00:00 2014-08-27T11:37:50