Writer who received transplant as a teenager speaks at organ donation event

Picture of attendees at organ donation event

Young people from black communities across north London were encouraged to ‘talk about organ donation’ as part of a special event that took place next in Tottenham. The event – Organ donation: A conversation young black people need to have – featured guest speaker Akua Kezia, who had a liver transplant nine years ago when she was just 14.
Picture above, (l-r): Joshua Akapo, from Joined Up Thinking, Dr Sarah Afuwape, Mottie Omideyi-Akapo, from Joined Up Thinking, graphic designer Denzel Kessie, actress and photographer Melissa Cofie and Akua Kezia.

Akua, who wrote a book about her experience of transplantation (The Transplant Girl), talked about why it’s so important for more young black people to have conversations about organ donation and join the NHS organ donor register. Hosted by North London Youth Worker Bilal Harry Khan, Akua was joined by health professionals, organ transplant experts, and other young people affected by transplantation discussing the issues surrounding this topic to educate, inform and dispel myths about donation. 

Every year hundreds of people on the transplant list die while waiting for a suitable organ to become available. Research shows that people from black, Asian and other minority ethnic backgrounds wait longer for an organ transplant, and are more likely to die on the waiting list.

Dr Sarah Afuwape, renal and liver Practitioner Health Psychologist at the Royal Free London, leads the NHSBT-funded Young People’s Community Engagement project, the NHS-charity collaborative that organised the event.

She said there is a combination of reasons why black people tend to wait longer for a transplant. She said: “An organ transplant, for many, is best matched if received from someone who has a similar ethnic background to the recipient. However, proportionally, there are more black people on the transplant waiting list because black people are more likely to suffer from conditions that may require a transplant as part of the treatment. These include high blood pressure, diabetes and certain forms of hepatitis, which may lead to a patient needing a kidney or a liver transplant. However, for a number of different reasons, fewer black people become organ donors. These two factors lead to a shortage of suitable organs for black people in need of a transplant. At this event we will be exploring how to encourage more people from these communities to think and have discussions about organ donation.”

David Myers, chair of the Royal Free London organ donation committee, said: “Part of the role of the committee is to inform and educate, to give people across north London a better understanding of organ donation and transplantation. At this event we attempted to dispel some of the myths around organ donation and that the young people who attended will speak to their friends and their families about the important issues we will be discussing.

“We’re delighted that Akua Kezia joined us – it was vital that we had someone at the event who can speak about their first-hand experience of organ donation and why it is so important that people from all communities join the organ donor register and speak about that decision with their families.”

The event, which was free to attend, was funded by NHS Blood and Transplant, in partnership with Joined Up Thinking, Creative Youth Zone and the Royal Free Hospital’s Kidney Patients Association.

‘Organ donation: A conversation young black people need to have’ took place on Saturday 18 May, 2019 at The Triangle and Young People’s Community Centre, 91-93 Saint Ann’s Road, London, N15 6NU.

A deeply emotional true story containing a series of traumatic experiences when a young, troubled schoolgirl must face the harsh reality of life vs death. Akua undergoes life-threatening surgery that changes her life forever. She begins to shut herself away from the world and drowns in her deepest darkest thoughts……..

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