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Siblings make father proud by taking on the Easter Ultra Challenge

11 April 2024

Three siblings took on the Easter Ultra Challenge on Saturday 6 April – walking 10km and raising more than £5,600 for Kidney Research UK to mark their father’s recent transplant. 

Simran, from London, was joined by her sister Raani and brother Kamal. She says: “This disease has touched our family in a very personal way. We wanted to show our gratitude and push ourselves to do something following our dad’s experience, by raising money for Kidney Research UK for other people affected.” 

Two sisters and brother all wearing purple Kidney Research UK tshirts with medals
Siblings, Simran, Raani and Kamal.

Sudden hospitalisation 

It was just before Christmas 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic, when their father, 69, suddenly found himself in hospital, after waking up short of breath in the middle of the night. At the beginning of the preceding week, his doctor had discovered Simran’s father was experiencing high blood pressure, for which he prescribed blood pressure tablets. 

Simran says: “It was a worrying time because we didn’t know what was happening. To be told Dad was experiencing renal failure was a very difficult thing for the whole family to comprehend. He was quickly put onto dialysis, three times per week. The first six months were traumatic for us all, trying to understand what was happening, what dialysis involved, and coping with the extreme lows in Dad’s haemoglobin levels which resulted in multiple overnight stays in hospital for blood transfusions.  

“The changes in his appearance, such as the sudden loss of weight, were a sad sight. Even though we knew he was still the same person we loved, other people would focus on his outward appearance which impacted relationships.” 

Waiting for a transplant 

More than 5,500 people are on the transplant waiting list in the UK, and a third are from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. This means that people from these backgrounds often wait longer than average to receive a transplant. 

Simran says: “My dad never let on how painful his experience was for him and continued to live as normally as possible. My parents became grandparents in 2021, as my sister had a little boy in May, and I had a little girl in August. They lit up his life again and were the best medicine for him. 

“Dad was put onto the transplant list at the beginning of 2023, but everyone resigned themselves to the fact that dialysis was just the way it was going to be for a while longer, given the time it could take to receive one. 

“When he did get that call in January this year, it happened so quickly, and I think it’s fair to say we weren’t all completely mentally prepared. Our nerves were on edge throughout the day and in the weeks afterwards but thankfully everything is going well. He’s almost at the end of his isolation period now which is good, as he’s missing his grandchildren including my little baby boy. 

“We all feel fortunate and blessed because some people can be on dialysis for a long time. My dad wears a turban and when I visited him in hospital right after his transplant, he was already wearing it. That’s his identity. He looked so smart and the best I’d seen him in over three years.  

“His face had changed, going back to how he used to look. He was up walking around the ward faster than I’d seen him move in a while. We facetime most days and we can see his face filling out more again. It’s so good to see.” 

Celebrating Vaisakhi

Simran and her family practice Sikhism, and she says: “Our family has had so much to celebrate this year already and, we feel really blessed that Dad has been given this opportunity and that everything is going well so far. 

“Before Dad’s diagnosis, my parents would visit the temple, called a Gurdwara, most weekends. It’s a central part of the community where you see your friends and catch up with people after the Sunday service. During big festivals such as Vaisakhi or Diwali, he has adjusted to going to the temple at times which aren’t busy - to avoid illness - or prays at home instead. You don’t necessarily need to be in a place of worship to celebrate or feel close to your religion. 

“We’re hoping to get together to celebrate Vaisakhi on Saturday 13 April, if we are well and don’t pose a risk of passing on any illnesses to Dad. We’ll be at home with another feast cooked by Mum who makes amazing food. We’ve all now adapted our diets to drastically cut salt intake.” 

The need for more organ donors

As well as raising money for research into kidney disease, Simran and her siblings are hoping completing their challenge will raise awareness of the importance of organ donation 

Simran says: “You don’t really think about organ donation until it personally affects you. Death is a taboo subject across all communities, so you don’t necessarily want to talk about what would happen after you die. When your family member has been a recipient of someone being an organ donor, it makes you think that if you could help people when you’re gone then why wouldn’t you? 

“It’s a conversation which does need to be normalised because a lot of people go through it but don’t necessarily want to talk about it. One persons’ experience, like my dad’s, can make other friends and family members think about things they never have before. 

“After my father received his transplant, it put a lot of things into perspective for us in terms of this overwhelming sense of gratitude to the person who’d passed away and subsequently given Dad a new lease of life. We are very aware that this also means a family has lost their loved one and are grieving. My parents wrote a letter to them, expressing their immense gratitude for their loved one’s actions. We hope that in some way this will provide them with some comfort as they come to terms with their loss.” 

Two sisters and brother holder their medals after the event
Simran with her sister and brother

Finishing the walk for Dad

We want to say a huge thank you to Simran, Raani and Kamal, for taking on the Easter Ultra Challenge. The money and awareness raised by Team Virdee is incredible. 

Simran says: “The way Dad has adapted to everything has been admirable and I don’t know if I’d have had the same strength of character. Hopefully our story has a happy ending, but we’re acutely aware that’s not always the case for everyone. Watching him go through dialysis for three years was difficult. It’s so hard on the person going through it but also on the people around them. 

“My brother has done an incredible job of getting the word out about our challenge. A lot of the donations we’ve had are from neighbours, friends and relatives he has had conversations with. We’re grateful for all the support we’ve received from friends and family.” 

You can support Team Virdee by visiting their Just Giving page: Simran Mhajan is fundraising for Kidney Research UK (justgiving.com) 

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