“FOR ME, having a kidney transplant has been a rebirth, it changed my life.”
Father-of-two Hemant Bhakta, of West Swindon, has spoken out about how his life has been transformed through organ donation during National Transplant Week.
It comes after it was revealed that there is a shortage of black and minority ethnic people considering organ donation.
Currently, figures from NHS Blood and Transplant show less than two per cent of South Asian and black communities are on the organ donor register, but they are three times more likely to need an organ transplant than the UK average.
And according to the figures, Black Minority Ethnic patients face twice as long a wait for a kidney transplant as other groups due to a lack of suitable organs.
Hemant, 50, who works at a newsagent in Cavendish Square, was on the register for two years before a suitable donor was found.
He said: “When I got the call from the hospital one night to say that they had found a suitable match, I just couldn’t believe it.
“I was totally shocked, confused, I didn’t know what to do, should I say no I don’t want it. All these thoughts rushed through my mind while I was still on the phone, even though I had been prepared for it.
“It completely changed my life. Before the transplant, my life was going downwards, but it has helped improve my life so much.
“It has stopped all the pain and doing the dialysis.”
It was back in 2007 that Hemant had noticed the first symptoms, and he then spent two years on dialysis before the appropriate donor was found.
“I had started to slow down, lost weight and my face looked really down. I began seeing my doctor more and more,” he said.
“It was a slow process to begin with but when it became really bad, it all happened really quickly.
“While I was on dialysis there were so many things I couldn’t do, I could never go far away from home, I had to watch my diet and I could only drink a certain amount of water each day.
“I had to stop working so much and I couldn’t lift anything.”
Hemant, who is Asian and signed up to the organ donor register while he was at college, said he is unsure as to why there is a lack of black and minority ethnic people signed up.
“As far as I am aware, there are no religious reasons,” he said.
“When I was at college it seemed better advertised, but these days if people have to go and look for it, I don’t think they will do it.
“I definitely think knowing somebody that has been through it like myself has encouraged people that I know to sign up, it has definitely made a difference to them.
“Myself, my family and friends are just so grateful that there was a transplant available, you just can’t quantify it but we are so thankful that the donor signed up, they have transformed my life.”
A meeting organised by the organ donation committee at GWH will discuss cultural and religious issues around organ donation later this month. The event takes place on July 25 at 3pm at the GWH, To join the organ donor register, visit www.organ donation.nhs.uk.