A BBC news presenter who donated a kidney to save his mother’s life says her health has been ‘completely transformed’ since having the operation.
Sabet Choudhury was told his mother Sakina, 70, could have only three years to live after her kidneys failed.
He said he had “little choice” but to donate a kidney, as she could have been waiting 10 years for a transplant because of the lack of deceased donors among black and Asian people.
“She could have waited to find a kidney from someone on the Organ Donor Register, but that would have taken a long time, which she did not necessarily have,” he said.
The operation was a success, but he said the wait for other black and minority ethnic (BME) families could be “long and fatal”.
Transplants are more likely to be successful if the donor is of a similar ethnic background because blood and tissue types are more likely to match, according to NHS Blood and Transplant.
Sabet, a presenter for BBC Points West news in southwest England, is urging more black and Asian people to register to donate organs.
‘New lease of life’
Sakina, who is of Bangladeshi origin, suffered kidney failure in December 2013. Doctors said she needed a new kidney and immediately began searching for a donor.
Sabet, 41, from Gloucester, said it had been hard to watch his mother having to be hooked up to a dialysis machine three times a week with a “pretty poor quality of life”.
“Dialysis keeps you alive, but it doesn’t make you better,” he said. Many patients, especially older people, only survive for a few years on dialysis and need a transplant to save their life.
“You don’t want to see that happen in front of your eyes, that quickly, knowing you can do something about it,” said Sabet.
After months of tests, Sabet was told he would be a suitable donor. About a third of all kidney transplants carried out in the UK are from living donors.
His initial fear was the procedure would affect his health, but he was back at work within six weeks of the three-hour operation, carried out in Bristol in November 2014.
“I’ve returned to full health since the operation,” he said. “In fact I’m probably healthier now because the process has made me more health conscious.”
He said the new kidney has given his mother a new lease of life. “The difference between how she is now and how she was before is like night and day. She looks 10 years younger.
“Being free of that dialysis machine … it’s as if her arms and legs have been untied. She has rediscovered a lust for life that I thought she would never have again.”
‘You could save nine lives’
People from an ethnic minority background have to wait around 10 months longer than average for kidney transplants because of the shortage of matching donors.
Only 3.5% of people from ethnic minorities are on the Organ Donor Register, while more than a third of those needing a transplant are from ethnic minorities.
“My view is that if you are prepared to take, you should also be prepared to give,” said Sabet. “You will be helping people in your own community. One person donating their organs could save nine lives. That’s a beautiful thing.
“If you do sign up, it’s a good idea to tell family and friends about your intentions,” he said. If you register your wishes without telling the people closest to you, it may come as a surprise when they are trying to deal with their loss.
“Telling your loved ones that you want to be a donor will make it easier for them to agree to the donation in the event of your death,” said Sabet.
Some people may be reluctant to donate organs, believing it goes against their religion, but the major religions in the UK all support the principles of organ donation and transplantation.
Find out what your religion says about organ donation on the Organ Donation website.