“If I had another one, I would do it again. In a heartbeat.” Nina Greywoode, a hairdresser from south London, is a hero! Certainly, to the young girl whose life she helped to save by selflessly donating her kidney.
However, happy endings like this are extremely rare, as latest figures show that only 17 people from the African Caribbean community came forward last year to sign up to be an organ donor, the lowest number in five years.
These figures have been released as part of a new campaign by the ACLT (African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust) encouraging African or Caribbean individuals to consider being a potential living (kidney) donor, to offer hope to those in desperate need, before it’s too late.
On hearing that one of her friends, also a hairdressing client, urgently needed a kidney transplant, Nina didn’t hesitate to volunteer to donate one of hers. However, it was too late, her friend had become too ill to have the operation.
Having committed mentally to donating one of her kidneys, Nina, decided to proceed with her plan to help someone else and ended up donated her kidney to a young girl who was also desperately in need of a transplant.
Nina commented: “My thing is that it could be me. Do you know what I mean? It could be any one of my nephews or Godchildren. Knowing that everyone is walking around with something that could enable you to spend a few more years with your wife and your kids and they’re not willing to give it to you? And you can’t go ask people, “Oh excuse me can I have your kidney?” You just hope that people are going to come forward.”
But sadly, not enough of us do. Nina was one of just 38 black living kidney donors in the UK in 2014 and this year, the figures were even more dire, with only 17 people from the African Caribbean community coming forward, compared to 897 for white patients.
The ACLT’s Living Transplant initiative, is asking African Caribbean individuals to pay attention and not turn a blind eye to the seriousness of the status quo.
The campaign is built on really sobering facts. Figures published by NHS Blood and Transplant showed that in 2016-17, more than 250 African Caribbean patients died while waiting for a donor. African Caribbean patients who needed a kidney waited, on average, over one year longer than white patients. Also, of the 24% of African Caribbean patients who were fortunate enough to receive a kidney transplant, there were still more than 600 people who remained in need at the end of the year.
Orin Lewis OBE, ACLT Chief Executive, said: “This is a real issue facing our community. Our silent crisis needs to not be silent anymore: More donors of African Caribbean descent need to come forward and help us save lives. Too many people needlessly die waiting while friends, family and colleagues could provide a vital match. We need a game changer soon, if current trend continues, the future looks bleak for our community.
Nina donated her kidney to a girl who was desperately in need. She gave her a future again. We need to see more acts like this happening across our communities to prevent the needless suffering that patients and families endure. People can end up on waiting lists for years because of their race. The solution can only come from raising awareness within the community itself.”
If you’re interested in donating or want to just learn more about what’s involved, go to: www.aclt.org/donate
“I’d encourage anyone to do it. Don’t just wait until it’s you or your loved one.”
– Nina Greywoode