A Glasgow woman who received the gift of life from her brother has backed a campaign to raise awareness of living kidney donation.
Ifrah Raza, 31, recently marked the one-year anniversary of her transplant, which was made possible by her sibling, Adeel, 28.
The successful surgery came 17 years after her uncle stepped in to donate a kidney to Ifrah when she was just 13. Living kidney donation plays a vital role in increasing donation and transplantation rates in Scotland, with a kidney from a living donor generally offering the best outcomes for patients.
There are two routes to living kidney donation: directed donation – where a friend, relative or partner donates to a loved one – or non-directed altruistic donation, which involves a person donating to a stranger. Through raising awareness that living donation is an option, the hope is that more patients living with kidney failure can avoid or reduce the time they have to spend on dialysis.
Ms Raza’s initial transplant was needed after she suddenly became gravely ill aged 11. She was subsequently diagnosed with kidney failure, later learning that she was born with small kidneys. She said: “Everything happened so suddenly, I didn’t have any health issues before my diagnosis. We later discovered that I was born with small kidneys, but I didn’t have any symptoms until it was too late.
“The first time round it was all new to us, it came as a complete shock.
“I was critically ill. I had a cardiac arrest and was in a coma for a few days. The doctors had told my family to come say their goodbyes…they said it was a miracle that I survived.
“I was only 11 at the time so I didn’t really have much say in the transplant side of things, everything was discussed with my parents, but my family immediately put themselves forward.
“The second time round, I was more prepared as I always knew that I’d need another transplant at some point. Unfortunately, a distressing life event triggered my first transplant to start failing again, but this time me and my family knew a lot more about the process.
“Both of my brothers wanted to help. I was definitely more hesitant than them, I just didn’t feel comfortable with it, but they were keen to push on with the tests. The process had to be paused due to Covid, but fortunately Adeel had gone through most of major tests by March 2020, although we didn’t yet know whether he was a match.
“So in the interim I had to go back on dialysis. We were fortunate with the timing as the remaining tests my brother had left to do were minimal, so everything was finalised around August. I got the transplant in late September and then we went back into lockdown two weeks later.
“Amazingly the transplanted kidney worked almost instantly. We weren’t allowed any visitors this time round so it was very different to the first time, but Adeel and I were able to see each other and have Zoom calls with family as we recovered.”
Her brother said: “I was very young when Ifrah got her first transplant. I don’t remember the ins and outs, but I remember going round to my gran’s and everyone being upset, and regular trips to the hospital.
“We always knew Ifrah would need another kidney but we didn’t think it would happen as soon as it did.
“I had no hesitation at all. I actually volunteered before I properly spoke to my wife, and we obviously tried to keep as much as possible from my mum to limit the worry.”
He added: “I’ve always been close to Ifrah but this has strengthened our bond. She feels like she’s picked up a lot of my traits since the transplant, which we laugh about. She’s back playing sports and has gone on holiday. It’s great to see her getting her life back.”
Jen Lumsdaine, lead nurse at Living Donation Scotland, said: “This story demonstrates how living donation can transform the life of someone living with kidney failure. We would encourage those on the waiting list to consider living donation as an option.
“A person can lead a completely normal life with one kidney, and anyone can volunteer to find out more about donating, but it must be something they choose to do and feel comfortable doing.
“Living donation is an exceptional gift, and although Scotland has an opt-out system of organ and tissue donation, living kidney donation continues to play a vital part in improving transplant numbers, so more lives can be saved and transformed.”