Man who received life-changing transplant calls for more organ donors
A man who got married and had a child after a transplant is encouraging other people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds to donate.
Jide Akinola, 51 from Belvedere in Bexley, received a life-saving combined kidney and pancreas transplant at Guy’s Hospital in 2002. Before then he was suffering from major complications caused by type 1 diabetes. The civil servant is now raising awareness of organ donation to mark Organ Donation Week this week.
NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) organises the annual awareness week to promote the importance of people discussing their organ donation decision with their families, and to highlight how not doing this leads to many missed transplants.
This is an especially important issue for people from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. One in five people who die waiting for a transplant is from these communities because they are more likely to suffer from a disease which may require a transplant. However, only 7% of donors last year were from these backgrounds, with family refusal being the biggest obstacle to organ donation.
Jide was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was 16 and by the time he went to university it had started to affect every part of his body. Both of his kidneys had stopped working properly, he had cataracts in his eyes, nerve damage in his feet which led to him having part of his left big toe amputated, skin problems and high blood pressure. He was added to the transplant waiting list in 1998 – four years before suitable organs were found – and started dialysis, a procedure which replicates the function of the kidneys, the following year.
Jide said: “Dialysis was very difficult and curtailed a lot of things I was able to do. I was very ill and constantly in hospital so I was very keen to have a transplant. Without it I knew my life was in danger. I remember getting the call saying a suitable match had been found like it was yesterday. It was one of the happiest and scariest days of my life. Once I had recovered I noticed I had more energy, felt healthier and my skin improved.”
Before his transplant Jide did not think he would be alive long enough to get married or have children because he was so unwell. He met his wife Jerilen after his transplant and the couple married in 2013, before having their son Marc-Jayden the following year. Jide said: “I never dreamed it would be possible to get married and have a child. I have a lot to be grateful for.”
A few years after his transplant Jide wrote to his donor’s family through the transplant coordinator at Guy’s. Since then he has regularly met up with his donor’s mother, who came to his wedding and has met his son, and the pair are still in contact now.
Jide said: “It takes a very good person to donate their organs or to agree to their loved one donating at such a sad time. I feel a responsibility to make sure I keep my donor’s organs working by staying healthy and to travel and do all the things I couldn’t before.
“I always think about my donor on the anniversary of his death. He’s always in the back of my mind and I make sure that I move forward in life and better myself to honour him.”
Jide is urging people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds to talk about organ donation. He added: “It’s very sad that people from these backgrounds don’t seem to be on the donor list for cultural and religious reasons. There is a need for more to be done to explain to these groups that they have a higher chance of some of the diseases which require organ and blood donation. It isn’t right that they might have to wait longer for a transplant. We need to help each other by signing the register.”
Sam Newman, specialist nurse for organ donation at Guy’s and St Thomas’, said: “Last year, the families of 17 patients who died at Guy’s and St Thomas’ consented to organ donation. Thanks to their generosity, 39 seriously-ill people received life-saving transplants. It’s important to recognise the life-saving gift the donors and their families have made, and the staff who made this possible.
“Only around 5,000 people across the UK each year die in circumstances where they could donate their organs. It’s vital that every potential donor can fulfil their wish by telling their family they want to donate. Even if they wish to donate, if their relatives refuse then donation does not proceed. Currently three people die every day in need of an organ transplant.
“For people in the black, Asian and ethnic minority communities the situation is even more critical. More donors are needed to address an increase in patients from these communities dying whilst waiting for an organ transplant. Donating means you could potentially save and improve the lives of up to nine people.”
Anthony Clarkson, Interim Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation for NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “Words save lives. Please, tell your family you want to save lives through organ donation, because it could be the difference between life and death for someone else.”
Events are taking place at Guy’s and St Thomas’ to celebrate Organ Donation Week, which runs until Sunday 9 September. People can meet the organ donation team and ask them questions from 8am until 2pm on Thursday 6 September on St Thomas’ Street outside Guy’s Hospital.
You can join the NHS Organ Donor Register by:
- Going online at www.organdonation.nhs.uk/register-to-donate
- Phoning 0300 123 23 23
- When you register for a driving licence or at a GP surgery, apply for a Boots Advantage Card, or register for a European Health Insurance card.