Suzanne McDonald, school manager at the School of Business and Law at the University of East London (UEL), and her brother Derrick McDonald triumphed at the recent British Transplant Games in Newport.
Suzanne, from Collier Row, east London, donated a kidney to Derrick, of Gidea Park, Romford, ten years ago. Two years ago Derrick received another kidney from a deceased donor.
Derrick and Suzanne ran for the Barts Health NHS Trust and The Royal London Hospital as that is where Derrick had both his transplants. The Barts and London team were sponsored by the Global Kidney Foundation, which works to promote donations from the BAME community.
Suzanne said, “It was an amazing weekend with my brother winning in swimming. I got a medal for taking part in the 3k donor run, and I also came third in my heat of the donor 100 metres race.”
Derrick won a gold medal at the Games in the men’s butterfly and a silver in the men’s front crawl, both in the over 60s division.
Suzanne, who is of Caribbean descent, is passionate about highlighting the need for more people from BAME communities to sign up to be organ donors.
She said, “There are not enough BAME donors around and so many BAME patients with kidney failure spend years on dialysis. We really need to start breaking down the taboos around organ donation in the BAME community.
“I’d encourage everyone to consider carrying a donor card as it makes such a difference to people’s lives. Next year an automatic opt-in system will be introduced, but in the meantime a lot of lives are being affected and lost.”
The London Assembly recently stated that in 2018 black and Asian patients waited six months longer than white patients for kidney transplants. Asian patients waited almost three years for a lung transplant, while white patients waited about nine months.
Demand for organ transplants is high among BAME communities since BAME people are more likely to have diseases that lead to organ failure. For example, type 2 diabetes, which can cause serious kidney disease, is six times more prevalent in people from South Asia and three times more prevalent in African and Afro-Caribbean people than white people.
NHS Blood and Transplant reported in 2018 that 21 per cent of people who died on the waiting list in 2017 were from a BAME background, compared with 15 per cent a decade before.
The issue is further compounded by cultural and religious beliefs in the BAME community which doesn’t encourage organ donation after death.
Reflecting on her decision to help her brother, Suzanne said, “I didn’t have to think twice when it came to donating to Derrick. He’s my brother and I had something that could give him his life back while not making a difference to mine.
“The scariest part was all of the testing to see if I was a good match. You get tested for just about every disease known to man! The day of the surgery was a bit nerve-wracking, but I was also excited to help him back to good health. It didn’t take me long to recover. I was back at work after six weeks, and it has not made a difference to my health in any way.”
The inaugural British Transplant Games took place in Portsmouth in 1978 and have been staged in different cities in the UK annually since then. At the 2019 Games, which took place from 25-28 July, over 950 transplant recipients took part in 25 events.