TWINS are said to have a special bond — but for David and James Latham, they have something extraordinary in common.
The identical Westhoughton brothers have both battled against chronic kidney disease.
After three life-changing transplant procedures, they have seven kidneys between them.
James, aged 49, was first diagnosed with focal sclerosing glomerulonephritis in 1995 and had his first transplant in 1996.
But the kidney only lasted for three years meaning he had to go back on dialysis — a type of treatment that replicates the kidney's functions and can take up to eight hours a day three times a week.
It was not until 2001 when another kidney became available that James could have a second transplant, which has so far been successful.
His twin David, of Broadwalk, Westhoughton, was diagnosed with the same kidney disease in 1999 and managed to control the illness by following a strict diet and medication.
But in 2011 the father-of-one’s health started to deteriorate and he had to start dialysis at the Royal Bolton Hospital and eventually at home until a suitable kidney was found. He had to give up work as a builder — a job he and his brother had done all their lives.
His wife Debbie, aged 40, said David’s illness hit their daughter Megan, aged nine, particularly hard.
Mrs Latham, a district nurse in Bolton, said: “Megan found it really tough seeing her dad so poorly.
“He just didn’t have the energy to play with her or take her out as much. He had to give up his job and all the other things he liked doing such as playing darts down at the pub.
“But we were determined to not put our lives on hold and still tried to have as much fun as we could.”
And then in December 2013 David finally got the special call he had been waiting for — a suitable donor had been found and he was called for surgery immediately at Manchester Royal Infirmary.
David said: “We had actually had two phone calls before but the transplants had fallen through at the last minute.
“When we got the third one, I just couldn’t believe it was going to go ahead.
“Even when I was at the MRI waiting to go into theatre I didn’t think it was going to go ahead.”
Yet James says he sensed his twin would get the call the night before.
James, who now lives in Hindley with his wife Linda, said: “I knew something was wrong the night before. I couldn’t sleep at all and when the phone rang the next day, I knew David had got a kidney. I just couldn’t believe it.”
David’s transplant was successful and now both are able to live their lives without relying on dialysis.
In 2012 James also had to have his right leg amputated due to a blockage behind his knee and was diagnosed with diabetes.
He added: “We just try to get on with things and don’t make much of a fuss.”