British Transplant Games announces BAME Ambassador for 2021

The Westfield Health British Transplant Games and Transplant Sport is proud to announce that Leeds City Councillor Mohammed Rafique will join the 2021 games as its black, Asian and minority ethic (BAME) ambassador. In his role as ambassador Cllr Rafique has pledged to help raise awareness of the disparity and need for more members of BAME communities to consider organ donation, make their wishes known and join the donor register.

The announcement comes after this year’s Organ Donation Week (7– 13 September) saw the release of NHS Blood and Transplant’s report into organ donation and transplantation in BAME communities. Statistics showed that as of February this year, there were 1,909 people from BAME communities on the transplant waiting list, the highest number in five years.

Although the organ donation law changed to an ‘opt-out’ system in May of this year, the reality is still that BAME individuals are waiting twice as long for a suitable transplant than those from a white Caucasian background. To ensure a close genetic match and avoid the organ being rejected, donations are most commonly found within the same ethnic background as the recipient. It’s critical to increase the number of BAME individuals willing to donate and share their wishes so family and loved ones know they wish to do so.

Commenting on his role as BAME ambassador Cllr Rafique said: “Although the organ donation law has changed to allow deemed consent, BAME individuals are still at a disadvantage and are more likely to die waiting for a transplant than their Caucasian counterparts. We need to help break down the myths and misconceptions around organ donation and encourage people to have that crucial chat about their wishes with loved ones.”

Also raising awareness around the importance of organ donation in the BAME community is the Suryavansi family. Akash (22) was born with a polycystic kidney disease which meant he would need a transplant. In 2004 a he received a kidney from his mother Tina but in 2015 when the transplanted kidney had begun to fail, Akash was given another kidney from his father Aky. Since then, the family has been championing organ donation within BAME communities, raising awareness and funds and encouraging vital sign ups to the organ donation register.

Tina who works in A&E at Leeds General Hospital and Akash’s twin sister have decided to live separately from Akash and Aky who have been shielding since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, they expect to continue living apart until the end of the year. Despite this, the family continues to champion the importance of organ donation and have raised money for the Leeds Children’s Transplant Team to give more children the chance to compete at the Games.

Aky commented: “We’ve seen first-hand what a second and even a third chance at life has meant for Akash who continues to inspire our family, friends and community. By breaking the silence around organ donation, we can remove stigma and misconceptions, so that more people waiting for an organ can one day receive the gift of life.”

The Westfield Health British Transplant Games, an inclusive, fun, friendly participation festival of sport, is the flagship event organised on behalf of the charity Transplant Sport. The 2021 Games will take place in venues across Leeds from the 5-8 August, welcoming transplant athletes from the age of three to over eighty to compete in 24 sporting events.

For more information on the Westfield Health British Transplant Games 2021, visit: www.britishtramsplantgames.co.uk

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