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By Dela Idowu

Sunday, February 10, 2013.

This article is an excerpt from my book “More Than a Match” which chronicles mine and my family’s experience as potential living kidney donors.

I was born in London and my brother, Tayo, was born in Lagos, Nigeria and was raised by our grandma before coming to England in the early 60’s. We met for the first time when I was 4 and he was 7 years old. We got on very well together and our closeness continued into adulthood.

In December, 2011, my brother told me he had kidney failure, needed dialysis and was waiting for a donor kidney on the deceased donor list. I was totally devastated and immediately told him that I would donate one of my kidneys to him as I knew I could live a normal and active life with one. There are over 7,000 people waiting for a kidney transplant on the NHS. The demand for donor kidneys outstrips supply; as a result only 2,500 kidney transplants can be performed each year. As a black African, my brother could wait at least nine years for a kidney transplant; this is three times longer than the national average. Cultural and religious traditions stop many Black and Asian people from coming forward as donors. Also these ethnic groups are particularly at risk to diabetes and high blood pressure which can lead to kidney failure pushing their need for a donor kidney higher. I found out that relatives are more likely to be a closer match for transplantation, and the closer the match, the greater the likelihood of a successful transplant.

Being a living donor for my brother would change his life significantly, it would give him the chance to be healthier and possibly live longer. He wouldn’t have to wait several years for a transplant, which could slowly affect the state of his health or be on dialysis which is by no means an easy task. I knew there were potential risks in being a living donor, but the risks are no greater here than with any surgical procedure.

I began my living donor assessment process at Guy’s Hospital, London. Before I could donate, I had to have a comprehensive medical examination to make sure I was healthy and my health would not be put at risk in the future. There are several medical tests you need to undergo to establish compatibility, and although they were not painful, having to repeat some of them and wait anxiously for the results put me on an emotional roller-coaster!

After several medical tests and nine months later, my results revealed that I had a minor inflammation on one of my kidneys, It was not a health risk whilst I had two, but if I donated my medical team could not be certain whether it would cause a strain on my remaining kidney. Sadly as there was a slight risk, I was not allowed to donate. I loved my brother and desperately wanted him to regain his health and was willing to take the risk. The NHS has guiding principles before they can remove a kidney and although they were sympathetic to my plea would not reconsider. It was heart breaking not to be able to help my brother and I was constantly in tears as I daily observed him grapple with the challenges of dialysis. But there was a ray of sunshine and all was not lost as my daughters who were also close to their uncle offered to be tested to see if they were compatible donors.

Offering to become a living kidney donor shouldn’t be seen as a frightening experience, and I know there are myths Black and Asian people have about donating. However my experience as a potential living donor has led me to realise that the NHS is not overly eager to remove our kidneys on a whim!

This myth shouldn’t prevent us from trying to save a loved one or friend’s life or improve their health. Today, transplants are so successful in the UK that a year after surgery 94% of kidneys in living donor transplants are still functioning well. Many people don’t realise we don’t need both kidneys to live a normal life. We can continue to live a full life with one kidney with just a few life style changes. In fact many living donors are back at work within four weeks of surgery. Our relatives or friends don’t need to make several trips to the hospital each week for dialysis, let’s help by giving them a kidney so they too can live a full life.

To find out more about being a living kidney donor for a relative or friend, read “More Than a Match,” one family’s uplifting experience of living kidney donation. The book can be purchased on Amazon or at www.morethanamatch.co.uk

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