Guy's Hospital black living kidney donors celebrate 'gift of life'

Monday 10 June 2019

Richard and Polly Todd

More than 150 African and Caribbean living kidney donors and their recipients gathered at a celebration event in London to be honoured and recognised for their acts of selflessness and bravery.

The event on 18 May was the first event of its kind in the UK and was hosted by Gift of Living Donation (GOLD), which launched the “Because of You” celebration to appreciate and recognise African and Caribbean living kidney donors in the UK.  

The event also highlighted the pressing need for more black living donors to come forward to help prevent further avoidable deaths. Blood and tissue types need to match for a successful transplant and for many the best match will come from a donor from the same ethnic background.

One of the guests at the event was Polly Todd who donated a kidney to her brother Richard in an operation at Guy’s Hospital in 2011. Polly said:

“As a child my brother had a kidney problem. In 2007 he was told he needed a donor and I said I would donate if it became necessary.

“In 2009 it became necessary. Without hesitation, and without my brother knowing, I went behind the scenes and decided to start the process of having the medical checks.

“On 21 January 2011, I donated my right kidney to my brother. The operation went well for both of us and recovery was also pretty smooth for me.

“Becoming a living donor is an amazing and profound experience. To give the gift of life is truly an honour and one that I think more people in the African and Caribbean community should consider.”

The number of living organ donors from the black community is declining. The latest NHS Blood and Transplant statistics show that for the year to the end of March 2018, 17 black people donated a kidney as a living donor, less than half the figure of five years earlier. In contrast as of October 2018, 632 black people were waiting for a transplant, with the vast majority of those in need of a kidney.

Dela Idowu, Founder of Gift of Living Donation said: “It is so important to showcase some of the black men and women who have overcome their fears to successfully donate a kidney to a loved one. We hope these extraordinary stories will encourage more people to conquer their fears and come forward as donors.”

The event was also attended by kidney patients waiting for a transplant. GOLD hopes that the inspirational donor stories will inspire more people to talk to their families about living donation.

Harley Armstrong, who attended the event with her father, a dialysis patient at Guy’s Hospital, said speaking with other donors had encouraged her to come forward as a donor for her dad.

Speaking at the event, Lisa Burnapp, lead nurse for living donation at NHS Blood and Transplant and consultant nurse in living donation at Guy’s and St Thomas’, said:

“Gift of Living Donation hosted a truly wonderful event that for the first time in the UK brought together African-Caribbean living kidney donors. Their stories were inspiring.”

Also in attendance was the Mayoress of Camden, Maryam Elamdoust, who said: “As someone from an ethnic minority background, it was an honour and a privilege to be invited to open and speak at such an important event that celebrates the gift of life through living donation.”

Last updated: March 2022

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