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Posted On: 4th Sep 2017

Asian Transplants

Risa Romy wants more people from ethnic minorities to sign up as organ donors
Risa with her organ donor Sibby Thomas
Specialist transplant nurse Charlotte Gilbert supports Risa's campaign

'I first became ill when I was 12. I just woke up one day with really swollen eyes. Eventually I went to hospital and it all went very fast from there. I was diagnosed with steroid resistant nephrotic syndrome (SRNS).' 


For 17-year-old Risa Romy, it was the start of a nightmare which would lead to complete kidney failure.


SRNS is a rare kidney condition that causes excess fluid to be retained by the body, leading to swelling commonly in the face, eye lids, and ankles. 


'Both my kidneys were removed and I was on dialysis for a whole year,' she says. 


The wait for a donor began and Risa, from Dorchester, was shocked to learn that as someone from an Asian background, she would probably have to wait longer than someone from the white community.


Risa and her parents have now decided to campaign with Fixers to get more people from ethnic minorities to sign up as potential donors.


She will tell her story on ITV News West, ITV News West Country and ITV News Meridian (W).


Charlotte Gilbert, a specialist transplant nurse from the local hospital, says there’s a shortage of black and Asian people on the donor register.


'Through tissue typing and blood groups, there’s a better chance that you’ll find a match if you are from the same ethnic minority community,' she says.


'22 per cent of patients on the transplant waiting list are from black and Asian communities and last year only 6.4 per cent of our deceased organ donors came from those minority communities.


'So Risa’s message is really important – hopefully it encourages people to sign on to the organ donor register and talk to their families about the decision they have made.' 



Risa adds: ''Once the people we approach are fully informed about what’s involved, they’re almost all happy to go on the register.'


Risa herself was saved by a complete stranger called Sibby Thomas who heard about her search for a kidney donor and got in touch out of the blue.


'I am really blessed,' she says.


'He’s a god-sent angel in my life. My message would be to sign up to the register because you will be giving someone the gift of life and that’s a beautiful thing to do.' 


To find other resources on this topic, and watch Fixers films, click on the image below.


Author: Paul Larsmon


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