Medical student thanks mum for giving him the gift of life

Friday 9 March 2018

Shimal Devapura and his mum Champika Wijayarathe

A teenager has an extra special reason to be thankful to his mum this Mother’s Day after she donated her kidney to him.

Shimal Devapura, 18, needed a kidney transplant after suffering from kidney failure since he was a baby. Thanks to his mum, Champika Wijayarathe, he had his successful transplant and recently started studying medicine at Queen Mary University of London.

Shimal, from Stepney Green in east London, said: “It’s difficult to put into words how much my mum has done for me. I can never repay her for what she’s done for me and I appreciate her so much. She’s a great mum and I will definitely be buying her a very nice present for Mother’s Day this year.”

Without his mum’s kidney Shimal could have faced a long time on the waiting list for a kidney transplant and would have needed dialysis. It was only thanks to teams at Guy’s Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital that the transplant was possible after they overcame potential rejection of the organ because Shimal and Champika have different blood groups.

Incompatibility due to different blood groups is one of the main reasons why kidneys can be rejected once they are transplanted. Antibodies react against different blood groups to protect the body against something that the immune system recognises as incompatible.

To avoid Champika’s kidney being rejected, Shimal was infused with a drug called rituximab through a drip, shortly before his transplant. He had the surgery in December 2016 at Great Ormond Street, while Champika’s operation took place at Guy’s Hospital earlier the same day.

Shimal developed chronic kidney failure as a baby due to a bacterial infection so it is only since his transplant that he has been able to live without symptoms of kidney failure, including fatigue and lack of energy.

He said: “There isn’t a time when I don’t remember going to the doctors all the time. Since I was growing up with kidney failure I was more tired than most people but that was normal for me. It was only after the transplant that I realised how much more energy I had.”

While his condition was kept under control during his childhood, by 2016 Shimal started to feel more lethargic and fatigued than usual and his doctors said he needed a transplant. After tests found his dad, Nish Fernando, was not suitable to donate, his mum suggested giving him her kidney.

Shimal said: “We have different blood groups so we weren’t sure she would be able to donate but tests found it was possible because I had low antibodies to her blood group – she is group B, while I’m group A – and with further treatment the doctors told us the transplant had a good chance of success.

“Mum was nonchalant and acted like it was an obligation when it really wasn’t! She has always worried about me and been there for me when times have been tough.

“As soon as I woke up I asked how my mum was. She needed to rest so I only saw her a week and a half later. When she saw me her face lit up and she said she could instantly see I had more energy and looked happier.”

Since then Shimal has started university. He adds: “I decided to study medicine because I’ve been seen by doctors a lot growing up and that influenced me. I hadn’t had a bad experience with any doctor and I wanted to be there for other people like they have been for me.”

Champika, 50 from Barking in east London, said: “I’m very happy to see Shimal so well ­– it makes me donating my kidney all worth it. He has been very brave coping with his condition and the various treatments he’s needed growing up. Thanks to the transplant all his health problems have gone away.”

Professor Nizam Mamode, consultant transplant surgeon at Guy’s and St Thomas’, said: “Incompatibility affects 30% of people on the waiting list, making it harder for them to have transplants.

“At Guy’s and St Thomas’ we are looking at a number of techniques to overcome the problem of incompatibility so that more people can receive life-saving kidney transplants. Working with our children’s hospital Evelina London and Great Ormond Street Hospital, we are part of the world’s only paediatric blood group incompatible programme.

“It’s wonderful to see patients like Shimal living the life they want to lead thanks to the pioneering techniques we are using.”

Last updated: March 2022

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