A woman has undergone two life saving kidney transplants thanks to family members 17 years apart.
Ifrah Raza from Glasgow was just 13 when she underwent her first kidney transplant after her uncle was found to be a match.
When her transplant began to fail in 2020, the now 31-year-old was forced to undergo a second operation, with her younger brother stepping up to donate a kidney.
Ifrah has now backed a new campaign by Living Donation Scotland, who aim to raise awareness of living organ donation.
According to the organisation, 1500 people in Scotland have helped others by donating a kidney, since the first pioneering surgery took place in Edinburgh over 60 years ago.
Aged 11, Ifrah suddenly became gravely ill and soon went into kidney failure.
She learned she had been born with small kidneys and her family were told to prepare for the worst.
Ifrah said: “Everything happened so suddenly, I didn’t have any health issues before my diagnosis.
“We later discovered that I was born with small kidneys, but I didn’t have any symptoms until it was too late.
“The first time round it was all new to us, it came as a complete shock. I was critically ill. I had a cardiac arrest and was in a coma for a few days.
“The doctors had told my family to come say their goodbyes…they said it was a miracle that I survived.
“I was only 11 at the time so I didn’t really have much say in the transplant side of things, everything was discussed with my parents, but my family immediately put themselves forward.”
Ifrah underwent a successful kidney transplant thanks to her uncle Ijaz aged 13, however she knew she would need a second transplant later in life.
A traumatic life event triggered the first kidney to start failing and both her brothers put themselves forward to offer Ifrah a life changing gift.
While both offered to undergo tests to see if they would be a match, the process was paused due to Covid.
“Fortunately Adeel had gone through most of the major tests by March 2020, although we didn’t yet know whether he was a match. So in the interim I had to go back on dialysis,” Ifrah said.
“We were fortunate with the timing as the remaining tests my brother had left to do were minimal, so everything was finalised around August. I got the transplant in late September and then we went back into lockdown two weeks later.
“Amazingly, the transplanted kidney worked almost instantly. We weren’t allowed any visitors this time round so it was very different to the first time, but Adeel and I were able to see each other and have Zoom calls with family as we recovered.
‘It’s like my brother and my uncle gave me my life back.’Ifrah Raza
“You have to be really patient with yourself as you recover. The lockdown actually kind of helped with our recovery – we felt like we weren’t missing out on anything and with me being so high risk, people had to stay away.”
Ifrah says that the gift of living donation from both her uncle and brother helped “get her life back”.
She said: “On dialysis your life is restrictive, almost like it’s on hold. You get by, but it’s tough, then you have the fluid and diet restrictions.
“It’s like my brother and my uncle gave me my life back, my energy levels are through the roof, and no more restrictions. You get so used to feeling unwell, but when you’re healthier again the change is unbelievable.
“You can’t ever repay them, you just want to live your life a certain way to make them proud.”
Ifrah’s brother Adeel said he had no hesitation when it came to donating a kidney to his sister when the time came.
He said: “I was very young when Ifrah got her first transplant. I don’t remember the ins and outs, but I remember going round to my gran’s and everyone being upset, and regular trips to the hospital.
“We always knew Ifrah would need another kidney but we didn’t think it would happen as soon as it did.
“I had no hesitation at all. I actually volunteered before I properly spoke to my wife, and we obviously tried to keep as much as possible from my mum to limit the worry.
“The hospital talked me through what would happen, but my only question was when could we do it. The ease at which I made the decision was largely down to my uncle who donated to Ifrah.
“He was at the same life stage as I was when the transplant took place, and he went on to live a full life, getting married, having kids and playing football. The only difference I saw in him was a small scar.
“Whilst going through the tests, you’re told you can stop the process at any time if you feel unsure or change your mind. But seeing Ifrah having to go back on dialysis when things stalled due to the pandemic made me even more determined to see the things through.
“It was like night and day looking at Ifrah after the surgery. I’d been so used to seeing her ill, I didn’t realise what she used to look like. We were both emotional when we saw each other. I think there was an instant sense of relief on both sides.
“I was walking after the second day, but initially just had to take small movements because of where my scar was. But every week there was slight progression, and after 12 weeks I felt back to normal.
“I’ve always been close to Ifrah but this has definitely strengthened our bond. She feels like she’s picked up a lot of my traits since the transplant, which we laugh about. She’s back playing sports, has gone on a couple of holidays. It’s just great to see her getting her life back.”
Jen Lumsdaine, lead nurse from Living Donation Scotland, said: “This story demonstrates how living donation can transform the life of someone living with kidney failure.
“We would encourage those on the waiting list to consider living donation as an option. A person can lead a completely normal life with one kidney, and anyone can volunteer to find out more about donating, but it must be something they choose to do and feel comfortable doing.
“Living donation is an exceptional gift, and although Scotland has an opt-out system of organ and tissue donation, living kidney donation continues to play a vital part in improving transplant numbers, so more lives can be saved and transformed.”