BY CALUM FRASER
Jide Akinola didn’t think he would live long enough to get married or have children.
The Belvedere resident was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was 16. At 31 he was bed bound on kidney dialysis and surgeons had to amputated part of his toe.
He was placed on the transplant waiting list in 1998 and had to wait four years for a donor to come forward. The operation has transformed his life.
The 51-year-old 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 the operation both his kidneys had stopped working properly, he had cataracts in his eyes, skin problems and high blood pressure.
He met his wife, Jerilen, after his pancreas and kidney transplant and the couple married in 2013, before having their son, Marc-Jayden, the following year.
The civil servant said: “I never dreamed it would be possible to get married and have a child. I have a lot to be grateful for.” Mr Akinola, wants to encourage more people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds to donate.
According to NHS statistics, seven per cent of donors last year were from these backgrounds, with family refusal being the biggest obstacle to organ donation.
Also, 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.
Mr Akinola said: “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.”
A few years after his transplant, Mr Akinola wrote to his donor’s family through the transplant co-ordinator 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.
He 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.”
Sam Newman, specialist nurse for organ donation at Guy’s and St Thomas’, where Mr Akinola had surgery, said: “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 while waiting for an organ transplant.
Donating means you could potentially save and improve the lives of up to nine people.”
You can join the NHS Organ Donor Register by going online at www.organdonation.nhs.uk/register-to-donate or phoning 0300 123 23 23.