Sisters launch online kidney search

PUBLISHED: 13:30 22 August 2012

Sisters Jude Skilton and Jo Shipley.

Sisters Jude Skilton and Jo Shipley.


A WESTON woman has launched an unusual online appeal to find a kidney donor for a life-saving operation for her younger sister.

Jude Skilton sparked an internet frenzy - crashing a hospital transplant unit’s phone lines and winning support from comedian Ricky Gervais - after beginning a blog on behalf of sister Jo Shipley.

Jo, aged 32, has survived with just one kidney since she was eight days old, after doctors discovered a tumour.

The mum-of-two was also born with spina bifida, leading to more painful operations.

But despite her health problems the former Broadoak student said she lived quite a normal life.

This changed recently, when doctors at Southmead Hospital told her she was suffering from kidney failure.

Jude says she immediately volunteered to donate a kidney of her own - having always joked with her sister about ‘having a spare one’ - only to learn she was biologically incompatible.

Instead, the 34-year-old turned online for help, and set up a blog to share her sibling’s story in the hope of securing a match.

With more than 3,000 views in 24 hours and tweets from celebrities such as Ricky Gervais, Jude’s blog also caused the phone lines at the kidney transplant unit in Southmead Hospital to jam with potential donors.

Jude said: “We always knew Jo would need a transplant one day. We honestly always thought she would have my kidney.

“When you love someone and they get ill you want to do whatever you can and I thought I can do this for her.

“As an older sister I felt like I have always been able to help her out when she needed things, and stuck up for her when people picked on her in school. I would always say to her, I’ll sort it out.

“But when the consultant told me no, that’s when I panicked. I was more gutted when they told me that I could not be a donor than when they said she would need a transplant.”

Jo’s organ is currently functioning at only eight per cent, and she is undergoing dialysis while on the transplant waiting list.

Jo said: “I need dialysis three times a week for four hours.

“When they said I would need a transplant we immediately thought it would be Jude, as we knew this would happen at some point in my life.”

Jude, also a mother of two sons, set out to find a donor for her sister and began writing the blog, entitled Big Boss Trousers and the Quest for a Kidney.

Jo said: “When I started writing it was coming across negative because I just felt really guilty and felt that I had let her down.

“Last week I told Jo I’m doing this and said I’m going to put all your private business up on there with embarrassing pictures of you, and it went wild.”

Jo said: “It just goes to show how many people are willing to help. There were even people calling from other countries, saying they had read about me and wanted to get tested.”

Jo is now waiting to find out if there is a match from a living donor for her, which can take a few weeks, and is stable after her treatment at Weston General Hospital.

To read Jude’s blog and to find out more about becoming a donor visit

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Weston Mercury. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Weston Mercury