Doctor who saved her dad’s life wants to raise awareness of the gift of organ donation among minority ethnic communities
A London doctor hopes her scientific background, combined with the experience of donating a kidney to her dad, can raise awareness of organ donation among minority ethnic communities.
Dr Priya Mangat is determined to help others understand kidney disease after experiencing a lack of information and questions from the Asian community.
Priya, 33, a locum doctor based in Westminster, said: “I experienced cultural hesitancy from the community when explaining about donating a kidney to Dad.
It's OK to donate
"I hope my story can educate others around this issue and around the scarcity of ethnic minority donors.
“People asked if it was OK to donate on religious grounds and how could I live with only one kidney. Additionally, in Indian families there’s a sense of duty, that parents should support the children – not the other way round.
"There were many questions and I’d love to use my experience to help answer them.”
Priya’s dad Harbhajan was diagnosed with kidney disease in his 30s but it was not until he was in his 60s that his kidneys began to fail and the family realised he would either need a pre-emptive kidney transplant or need dialysis.
Initially, Harbhajan, a retired GP, and mum Navpreet refused offers by both Priya and her brother Harpreet, to begin kidney donor compatibility tests.
But as it became increasingly painful watching her dad’s health go downhill, Priya took matters into her own hands.
Secretly got tested!
“We couldn’t stand seeing Dad so poorly. So, without telling my parents, I liaised directly with my local renal unit and got tested.
“It felt like a no-brainer. I had looked at the science, satisfied myself of the risk-benefit ratio and could also see the long-term benefits of Dad having a kidney from a live donor compared to dialysis or a deceased donor.
“I also knew how long an Asian patient had to wait for a match. I could no longer sit back and watch.”
Priya wanted to restore her dad from subdued back to his usual jolly self.
“His iron was low; he was less chatty and increasingly lethargic. He looked drained. Any time of day or night he would suffer excruciating cramps and you could hear his muffled groans.
“He wore a jacket indoors as he was always cold and despite the heating being on full blast he had a portable heater to warm him up. We knew he was ill as he had lost his joy for life.”
Donating is best decision I've ever made
Priya was delighted when her tests came back as a very close match. “My parents had no idea I was doing this, so when I sat them down to give them the facts, it was a bit of a shock. Mum was tearful, and Dad was resistant.”
Her brother Harpreet, a neurosurgeon, decided to get himself checked for peace of mind, but he wasn’t a good match; their mum had already been checked and neither was she. “So, there was our result! I was the perfect match, and it was just a case of convincing our parents!”
Finally, they both agreed, and surgery went ahead in December 2019. Priya says it has been amazing to watch her dad’s life transform.
“It was the best decision I’ve ever made. To transform the life of a person you love is deeply humbling. He has a new zest. He’s always going for long walks and is full of beans. He is bright and bubbly, just like the Dad we always knew and loved.
“I hope my story raises awareness of the importance of knowledge among minority communities and also the importance of research to make life better for all those living with kidney disease.”
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