ONE of the most remarkable stories to come out of the Western's Renal Unit features Laura Ritchie, 28, from Glasgow.

When both her kidneys failed in 2005, doctors warned her family and childhood sweetheart Calum that she might not make it through the night.

She battled through months of dialysis before finally getting a transplant in 2007, just days after sitting her final exam at university.

A family friend, who wishes to remain anonymous, donated his kidney and Laura has since married Calum and embarked on a career as a chartered accountant.

Last week Laura was able to tell the donor she was expecting her and Calum's first child.

She said: "It was a great feeling to be able to tell him I was pregnant. "Without his kidney I could still be on dialysis or worse.

"The Western saved my life and Darlinda's Charity plays a big part in the unit's success.

"I was on dialysis for five hours at a time, unable to move my arm the entire time.

"The charity provided little extras, such as TVs, which seems like a small thing but it makes a huge difference to the patients to have that distraction during the treatment.

"I have gone on to have a pretty normal life after my transplant.

"Words can't describe how grateful I am for that."

A LIFE-SAVING charity is celebrating after raising £1million – every penny of which has been donated to the Glasgow Renal and Transplant Unit.

The money, raised by Darlinda's Charity since it was formed in 1987, has funded a string of vital research projects at the city's Western Infirmary.

As well as improving comfort for patients and their families, Darlinda's Charity For Renal Research is the largest benefactor to the Western's Renal Unit.Committee members regularly meet the hospital team to ensure the money raised goes to the best research projects.

The charity holds a series of events every year to bring in as much money as possible and has many loyal supporters, including the Hugh Fraser Foundation.

Sir Hugh Fraser was a friend of Rita Madhok, the charity's founder, and helped get it off the ground. Rita was better known as Darlinda for her role as an astrologer and psychic.

Sir Hugh's family's links to Darlinda's Charity remain and this year the Hugh Fraser Foundation donated £10,000.

The charity holds an annual Dynasty Ball named after the glamorous event of the same name which featured in the 1980s TV show starring Joan Collins.

Dr Colin Geddes, a kidney specialist at the Renal Unit who is also on the charity's committee, said: "The money raised by the charity is allocated to research and to patient comfort. Patient comfort covers quite a wide range of things, from buying a patient a pair of pyjamas to refurbishing the patient and visitor facilities.

"On the research side, there have been a large number of very interesting projects carried out at the Western.

"We have research groups in the unit looking at a number of important aspects affecting the treatment of patients with kidney failure.

"These include new insights into the heart problems many patients with kidney failure experience, combating the accelerated ageing that seems to happen inside transplanted kidneys and safer mechanisms of removing blood from the body for the thrice weekly dialysis sessions that many patients with kidney failure need to keep them alive."

Another research project is looking into the links between kidney disease and heart problems and how the risk of heart complications in kidney patients can be reduced.

Dr Geddes added: "These are projects that might never have happened were it not for the money raised by Darlinda's Charity."

The unit provides dialysis for 600 patients and carries out more than 100 transplants every year.

More than 1000 patients with functioning transplants also attend the unit for check-ups.

THE charity also backs the Evening Times' Opt For Life campaign, which calls for a system of presumed consent for organ donations unless people opt out.

Laura McAlonan, chairman of Darlinda's Charity, said: "After benefiting from the gift of a kidney transplant, our founder, Rita Madhok, was inspired to establish Darlinda's Charity for Renal Research, and we have always supported organ donation.

"We would welcome the Evening Times' Opt For Life Campaign to change the law to bring Scotland in line with Wales, where this policy is already proposed.

"We hope this would result in greater availability of organs for transplant, which would be a tremendous encouragement to those patients maintaining their health by dialysis."

To find out more about the charity, or to donate, see: