Azeem A – What have you got to lose?

– My name is Azeem. I’m thirty-three years old and have lived in Newcastle all of my life. I have donated bone marrow, blood and even a kidney – all to complete strangers – here is my tale.

In 2005, I went to Leeds University to study a degree in communication studies. In my first week, I was approached by the Anthony Nolan Research, a charity that helps find donors for those in need of stem cells or bone marrow. After learning about the incredible work they were doing, I joined the donor register.

It took a while to match with someone, but eventually I was able to donate my bone marrow. Surprisingly, it was a fairly easy process and I was determined to help others. I therefore decided to become a blood donor. My dad is on his eighty-fifth blood donation, so being a donor was certainly normalised.

In January 2019, I saw an appeal on twitter for a baby called Anaya who was in need of a  kidney. I recognised the 0191 telephone number so I knew Anaya was local to the area. I contacted the hospital and received some initial assessments. I had everything explained to me and the donation process didn’t seem too arduous: the first week I’d feel pretty rough and then I’d feel back to normal after twelve weeks. To have a few days of being under the weather to save someone’s life seemed like a very small price to pay.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t a match for Anaya but luckily I was strongly suited to someone else. Not knowing where the kidney was going was easier in a way. I didn’t have that emotional attachment and there wasn’t the same amount of pressure for my kidney to work for the other person.

When I let my family and friends know of my intentions, the reactions were generally along the lines of: “what the ***do you think you are doing!” Nobody was exactly jumping up for joy. People in my wider community questioned my sanity and somehow thought I was actually doing a very selfish act. I could engage and debate with people who formed their opinions using logic and facts, but I had no time for people who gave off-the-cuff criticism fueled by emotion.

However, I started to receive support once people realised that my decision was well thought out and researched. My surgery was booked for the end of September 2019. Momentum was building and I was ready.