Organ donation

Harmanjit - Interview 38

Age at interview: 31

Brief outline: Harmanjit donated a kidney to her father in 2008, when she was 29. He was 68 at the time and faced the prospect of dialysis. Both of them recovered well. Harmanjit is now keen to raise awareness of kidney donation amongst British South Asians.

Background: Harmanjit is a single student and works part-time. Ethnic background / nationality' British Indian.

Audio & video

Harmanjit donated a kidney to her father in 2008, when she was 29. He was 68 at the time and faced the prospect of dialysis.

Around 1995, tests showed that Harmanjit’s dad had polycystic kidneys. Polycystic kidney disease is a genetic condition characterised by multiple cysts in both kidneys. Harmanjit’s dad had regular monitoring and, over time, his kidney function was slowly deteriorating.

Doctors talked to Harmanjit’s dad about having dialysis and she and her father went to a unit to see what was involved. Seeing patients on dialysis and knowing what an active, busy man her dad was, Harmanjit said she did not want to see him going on dialysis. She said she was aware that patients who had pre-emptive surgery had a better success rate than those who’d had dialysis before transplant. Harmanjit offered to donate one of her kidneys to her dad, and started having tests to see if she would be a suitable match. If she wasn’t, she had an older sister who also offered to be tested.

For Harmanjit, the MRI scan – one of the tests involved – was the worst part of the experience because she felt claustrophobic. All the test results, though, showed that she was fit, well and a compatible match with her father.

A date for surgery was set but Harmanjit and her dad were unable to go ahead because he developed a chest infection. A second date was set a few months later and, in December 2008, the surgery went ahead.

The operation went well, though Harmanjit had an adverse reaction to the pain relief she’d been given. She had a lot of sickness at first but, once her medication was changed, she started recovering well. After a week in hospital, she was discharged. Back at home, it took her about three months to recover and resume all her normal daily activities.

Harmanjit praised the support she had from her mother, sister and uncle, a retired surgeon who came over from America. She also praised the care and information she and her father received from doctors and the specialist nurse (transplant coordinator). She praised the transplant surgeon ‘for his expertise, guidance and great sense of humour that kept us strong throughout’. Some of the doctors were able to speak Punjabi and Harmanjit said this was especially helpful for her parents.

Harmanjit said her strong religious faith was a valuable source of strength throughout her experience. She now has annual follow up and is keen to raise awareness of living kidney donation in British South Asian communities ‘and help remove the stigma associated with organ donation amongst people of various ethnic groups’.  


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