Organ Donation Changed my Life

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New campaign urges Asians to join Organ Donor Register

A NUMBER of West Midlands celebrities including Beverly Knight, Darren Bent, Alison Hammond, David Harewood, Adrian Lester, and chef Aktar Islam are backing NHS Blood and Transplant’s (NHSBT) new campaign to urge more Black and Asian people to join the NHS Organ Donor Register (ODR).

Currently, more than 35% of patients awaiting organ transplants in the West Midlands are from Black and Asian communities – 305 people – yet these communities account for less than 2% of people who have signed the ODR.

One person whose life has been transformed thanks to an organ donor, is Jatinder Kaur, 46, from Wolverhampton, who spent more than 16 years on dialysis. She is now enjoying her “incredible” new life after receiving a kidney transplant.

Jatinder developed kidney problems early in life and by her twenties her condition had deteriorated to the extent that she had to endure a year of daily dialysis, followed by dialysis three times a week for the next 15 years.

Determined not to let her condition dominate her life, Jatinder threw herself into her studying, eventually gaining an MBA with distinction from Aston University.

“I firmly believe in not giving in – you have dialysis to live, you don’t live for dialysis. But I’ll admit that there were times during the 16 years when I would just come home and cry, particularly when I started work and had to fit the dialysis in during the evenings. 

There have been some difficult times, but I tried to keep looking forward and was determined to see my 40th birthday and to travel back to my childhood home in India. Those two goals kept me going during the years when I thought I might never get a transplant.”

Complications meant that Jatinder’s time on dialysis stretched on for more than a decade and in 2003 it was eventually decided to attempt a transplant with an imperfect organ match, despite the higher risk of rejection. 

Jatinder said: “A further issue – which I think many people don’t realise – is that an ethnic match gives you a much better chance of an organ being successfully transplanted and there’s a chronic lack of donors from the Asian community on the NHS Organ Donor Register. So although my case is extreme, it’s not unusual for Asian people to be waiting three times longer for an organ than the general population.”

Despite the odds, Jatinder’s kidney transplant was successful and, with the help of a new generation of drugs and her “brilliant” team at New Cross hospital, she was able to celebrate her 40th birthday with a huge party and take “an incredibly emotional” journey to India. It is, she says, “almost like having a new life”: 

She adds; “If anyone is thinking of joining the Register but hasn’t got round to it, please don’t put it off any longer. There are people in desperate need of a transplant and the effect on someone’s life – as I can testify – is incredible”.

Black and Asian people are more susceptible to illnesses such as diabetes, kidney disease and heart disease, which may result in organ failure and the need for a lifesaving transplant, but because of a lack of suitable organs, they often wait up to three times as long for a transplant than the general population.

Janice Bayliss, Specialist Nurse for Organ Donation at NHSBT, said: “It is vital that more Black and Asian people join the NHS Organ Donor Register. The message is quite simple – more Black and Asian patients will have the opportunity to receive a life-saving transplant if more people from those communities join the Register.

“Transplants can be carried out between people from different ethnic groups, but an organ is more likely to be a close match, and as a result a transplant is much more likely to be successful, if the donor and recipient have the same ethnic origin. Becoming an organ donor means that you could help save or enhance up to nine lives.”

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