Sister who saved brother's life calls for more black, Asian and minority ethnic donors

Friday 6 September 2019

Polly Todd, stood with her brother Richard

A woman who saved her brother’s life through donating one of her kidneys has called for more black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people to consider being a donor.

Polly Todd, who donated a kidney to her brother Richard in an operation at Guy’s Hospital in 2011, made the call as new figures today (5 September) show living donors from the BAME community have risen.  The latest statistics from NHS Blood and Transplant show a rise from 142 for the year to 31 March 2018 to 149 for the year to 31 March 2019.

Polly, from Dulwich in south London, 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.”

This rise in numbers of BAME living donors, which represents 14% of all living organ donors, has been welcomed but there remains a chronic shortage. This is because a high proportion of people from these ethnic backgrounds develop high blood pressure, diabetes and certain types of hepatitis which makes them more likely to need a transplant.

In addition, the pool of potential donors is smaller because blood and tissue types need to match for a transplant to be a success and people from the same ethnic group are more likely to be that match.

NHS Blood and Transplant say certain faiths and cultures don’t support organ donation and that some base a decision not to donate on misinformation that their faith or belief will not be respected. Surveys also show that black and Asian families are less likely to discuss organ donation and more likely to decline to donate organs due to a lack of knowledge.

Lisa Silas, Advanced Nurse Practitioner in living donation at Guy’s and St Thomas’, said: “It’s great to see that there is an upward trend in the numbers of black living donors prepared to give the gift of life.

“There is a shortage of donors from this community and we would love to see more black and Asian donors come forward to improve health outcomes and quality of life for renal patients from the BAME community.

“For every person from a black, Asian and minority ethnic background who donated an organ last year, there were 15 in need of a transplant to save or drastically improve their lives.

Find out more and register your decision on the NHS Organ Donor Regsiter website and share your decision with your family.

Videos answering some of the common myths and misconceptions about organ donation can be viewed at the NHS Organ Donation YouTube channel.

Last updated: September 2019

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