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Wiping out the waiting list for kidney transplants could save the NHS £650 million over five years, according to a charity.
The staggering sum was revealed as a YouGov poll showed that three million adults would consider donating one of their kidneys to a stranger who needed a transplant.
When Jenny Dale learnt that someone she knew needed a liver transplant she was frustrated that she was not able to help.
But the crime scene investigator, from Dorset, decided she wanted to do something, so she offered one of her kidneys after she saw the effect of being on the waiting list for a new organ.
After donating a kidney in spring this year, she vowed that she would not just make a full recovery - she would be fitter than ever.
Six months later, the 47-year-old had embarked on a four-day, 700-mile bike ride from London to Paris in aid of Transplant Links - a UK-based charity for people in the developing world with kidney disease.
''I'm fitter than I was before I gave my kidney because it inspired me to do this charity ride,'' she said.
Unusually for a kidney donor, Ms Dale did not give her kidney to a sick friend or relative. She does not know who received her kidney and made the decision entirely altruistically, after she was inspired by a friend to donate the organ.
''I knew two twin brothers who needed liver transplants,'' she said, ''and just seeing the impact on the family of being on the waiting list really hit home.
''I thought, I can't give a liver, but I can give a kidney. I can actually change one person's life - and it's not often we get the opportunity to change someone's life.''
After tests to approve her as a donor, Ms Dale was matched to a potential recipient. It was then that the reality of what she was doing hit home.
''From that moment, I felt that the kidney was no longer mine, and I was just babysitting it for its new owner.
''I became very conscious of everything that I ate and drank, despite the fact I had spent 46 years using and abusing my kidneys.''
Her family were apprehensive but supportive, and her 17-year-old daughter and 20-year-old son have been inspired by her charity.
''My daughter was quite tearful a few days before surgery, but now she just tells me that I'm a complete inspiration to her,'' said Ms Dale.
''They have both offered me a kidney if I ever need one,'' she added.
When accountant Chris Boustead's kidneys failed, he needed regular dialysis and was too tired to do anything more than go to work.
''Everything in life took a significant amount of effort,'' 42-year-old Mr Boustead said.
He tried to live life as normally as possible, but a punishing regime of dialysis three times a week from 6pm-10pm left him exhausted and disrupted his social life.
There was no hope of recovery.
Legionella and other complications left him with acute kidney failure in 2007. Mr Boustead, who is Irish but lives in Chichester, West Sussex, faced a lifetime of dialysis.
His mother, father and brother offered to donate a kidney, but all proved unsuitable.
''I was beginning to think there was no such thing as the luck of the Irish,'' said Mr Boustead.
''As time went on, dialysis became a routine and I guess a way of life for me. I thought I was coping, and with the help of my family I was, to a certain extent.''
Mr Boustead's luck changed when he received a phone call ''out of the blue'' from the hospital. They had a kidney for him.
''In the initial shock I did not realise it was from an altruistic donor,'' he said. ''But this made a huge difference for me as I was able to plan my time off from work.''
Mr Boustead underwent the operation in February.
''I immediately felt better than before,'' he said. ''I was discharged after six days.''
The transplant was ''a fantastic success'', and five weeks later he was driving again.
''It is difficult to put into words the difference it has made to my life. In its simplest form, life has become a joy again,'' he said.
Mr Boustead does not know who donated the kidney to him, but he believes she is female.
''Thank you is such a poor word for what she has done for me,'' he added.