A Nottinghamshire man is urging people from Black and Asian backgrounds to “talk more” about organ donation after his wife died suddenly in October.
Manoj Keshavji is advocating for change after his wife, Leela, died following a brain haemorrhage and had five of her organs, including her heart valves and lungs, donated after her death.
“Leela’s legacy was all about giving,” Mr. Keshavji said.
“She was the kindest soul you could possibly meet.”
The NHS has said black and Asian people have to wait, on average, a year longer than white people for a kidney transplant in England.
Mr. Keshavji claims that Leela would regularly speak to the family about her intentions to donate organs and urged others from the BAME community to do so.
“Leela realised many years ago that it was an acute problem in our [BAME] community, after seeing so many others suffering and waiting for donors,” Mr. Keshavji said.
“She was a wonderful mother, wonderful human being and a unique individual.”
Manoj Keshavji talking about his late wife Leela
He believes that the shortage of BAME organ donors comes from “ignorance, fear, and unawareness of the impact that donated organs can have”.
Georgia Wilding, who works as an NHS Transplant Nurse at Newcastle Freeman Hospital, echoed Mr. Keshavji’s views and said that many families don’t discuss organ donation enough.
“The easiest way to increase organ donors is by people talking to their families and letting them know what they want,” she said.
“This actually normalises it [organ donation] because you’re talking about it, so it makes it less scary.”
Watch: Manoj Keshavji explains how it felt receiving a letter from one of the recipients of Leela’s organs
Miss Wilding also highlighted why it is important that there are more donors from the BAME community.
“People who come from the BAME community are more likely to need a transplant because of their predisposition,” she said.
“For every one donor from the BAME community, there will be another 15 people on the list, so the donors nowhere near match up.”
Listen: Georgia Wilding, a transplant nurse, explains the need for more BAME organ donors
As of May 2020, a change in the law now means that people over the age of 18 are automatically opted-in on the organ donor register.
Individuals are free to opt-out, however, and families of the deceased can still have a final say on the decision as to whether consent is given for organs to be donated.
Mr. Keshavji says that it is vital families have these kinds of discussions to ensure that the person’s wishes are followed through.
“It is vital that families start speaking about their organ donation and express their wish,” he said.
“Many people choose not to have that conversation because it’s a difficult topic.”
Mr. Keshavji is planning on setting up a foundation in Leela’s name which will focus on “small acts of kindness”.
“She was a wonderful mother, a wonderful human being, and a unique individual.”
“Her legacy would be – the best part of living is giving.”
More information on organ donation can be found at: https://www.nhsbt.nhs.uk/