Man waiting for life-saving kidney transplant urges people to become organ donors

A Bradford man who is hoping to be placed on the life-saving organ donor transplant waiting list has appealed for more donors from the south Asian community in the city to come forward.

Former paramedic, Mohammed (Izzy) Islam, 46, from Buttershaw, has already gone through one kidney transplant in July 2013 when his younger brother Fiaz donated one of his kidneys to save his brother’s life at St James’ Hospital, Leeds, after Izzy was told to ask relative for an organ because of shortage of suitable donors from his community.

But last year, Izzy’s transplanted kidney which had worked well for nine years started to fail and the father-of-five now finds himself back on kidney dialysis three times a week for up to four hours a session in a bid to keep him alive until a new kidney can be found.

Izzy explained:

Before my first transplant I discovered that I have an auto-immune condition which means my own body attacks my kidneys and they die.

The kidney my brother donated worked well and I had a normal life until 2021 when it started to fail again – I now have just 3% kidney function.

I am currently on dialysis again three times a week which is keeping me alive and afterwards I am exhausted. My quality of life is poor and the treatment is relentless, but it is keeping me alive so I tolerate it. Trying to stay positive isn’t easy though.

Izzy is currently undergoing the final, rigorous tests which all prospective transplant patients are put through in order to ensure they are fit enough to survive the operation.

He is hoping to go back on the transplant list after a final, imminent MRI, but as he has a rare blood group B+ due to his ethnicity, he has been told that finding a kidney match is slim due to a lack of South Asian donors.

Black, Asian and minority ethnic patients often have to wait significantly longer for a successful match than white patients, due to a shortage of suitably matched donors.

If more people with these ethnic backgrounds donated their organs after death, or as a living donor, then transplant waiting times would reduce.

Izzy continued:

A living-related transplant (where a blood relative donates a kidney) isn’t possible for me this time round, so I want to raise awareness of altruistic donors (where people can donate one of their two healthy kidneys while they are alive) and donations where people sign up to the organ donor register to donate their organs after their death.

I’ve been told that because of the lack of donors within minority groups like mine, I could be on the transplant waiting list forever, which isn’t what you want to hear.

My kidney function is 3% and has never been as low before and because it’s so low, it has made me really, really poorly.

Izzy started to realise his transplanted kidney was failing in January 2021 as he began to feel sick.

He continued:

I was carrying a lot of fluid as my kidneys weren’t processing it so it was just building up. I was being seen every three weeks by the hospital but I was struggling with my breathing and was so swollen that when I went in for an outpatient’s appointment in May 2021, the doctor admitted me as an emergency patient.

I was suffering from fluid overload which means the strain of the fluid on my heart and major organs was putting me at severe risk of a sudden heart attack.

Izzy was admitted to ward 15 at the BRI where he remained for three months until August 2021.

It was a very difficult time and because I was immuno-suppressed I was at high risk of catching Covid-19, he added. So I wasn’t allowed any visitors which put a huge strain on my mental health, despite understanding why seeing friends or family could put me and other very sick patients on the ward in danger.

The doctors worked really hard to get my condition stable so I could be fit enough for the transplant waiting list. I even had a form of chemotherapy treatment which they use to try and stabilise the kidneys, but unfortunately it didn’t work for me and I started dialysis.

Being on dialysis turns your life upside down. You have no quality of life and because you have no immunity it’s difficult.

This national organ donation week, which runs from September 26 to October 2, Izzy is appealing for more donors from his community to come forward and join the organ donor register.

He stated:

There is nothing better than you can than to give someone the gift of life.

As a Muslim, I know there are a lot of myths and misconceptions around organ donation but as a Muslim, there is nothing better than you can do than to donate your kidney.

Giving someone else the gift of life is amazing – whether you do it in life or death. The tests for altruistic donors are very rigorous and the doctors won’t consider you as a donor until they know you are going to thrive after you donate your kidney.

This organ donation awareness week, please sit down with your families and have this conversation as soon as possible. Leave your friends and family certain as to what your wishes are. After all, one donor can save the lives of many – it’s a vital and precious gift – if you could help someone by giving them a gift like that, why wouldn’t you do it? It’s about making a sacrifice to each other.

Izzy is married to Claire and he has five children: Caden (9), Eliza (11), Ajaaz (24), Anisha (21) and Adaam (19).

Three in 10 (31%) of people waiting for a transplant across the UK are from a Black, Asian or minority

ethnic background. Over a third of people (35%) waiting for a kidney are from these backgrounds.

Register your donation decision at www.organdonation.nhs.uk