London: An Indian-origin radiographer has been hailed as a "superhero" by the family of a two-year-old girl whose life she saved by donating her kidney in the north-east of England.
Surinder Sapal, an advanced practitioner radiographer at the Leeds Teaching Hospitals, made the decision to help Anaya Kandola after seeing an appeal on social media by the Newcastle-Upon-Tyne based family as part of a Hope4Anaya campaign.
"They say superheroes aren't real. But I think we have a real life super hero here," says Amrik Kandola, Anaya's father.
"If she had not had this transplant, I don't think she would have made it. So time was running out and for her (Sapal) to come into our lives with her kidney, just phenomenal," says mother Joety.
Anaya was born prematurely with a disease that led to her having two enlarged kidneys, an abnormal liver, underdeveloped lungs and damage to her heart. Anaya's oversized kidneys were removed soon after birth weighing a total of 1.5 kg. Living without kidneys meant Anaya required a gruelling regime of 10-12 hours of dialysis every single day to keep her alive.
Her best chance for a transplant was a living donor because a healthy person can lead a normal life with one functioning kidney.
"I feel amazing knowing that I have helped improve a child's health; she can now have a normal childhood. As a mother myself, I feel so happy that I have helped another mother make her child better," said 36-year-old Sapal, who underwent a series of tests after which she was declared a living donor match.
Anaya's Indian background meant that the best chance of finding a suitable transplant match was from the South Asian heritage. Both families are now dedicated to promoting living and after-death organ donation among British-Asians, a figure that is quite low in the UK.
"I am hoping to inspire more living donors and help break barriers and myths in the community about living kidney donation," said Sapal.
The UK's state-funded National Health Service (NHS) has been running campaigns to raise greater awareness over the issue. Organ Donation NHS has issued guidance to highlight that in order for a successful transplant, blood and tissue types need to match. The best match for a donor would come from someone with the same ethnic background, although some patients can receive transplants more widely.
The UK's black and minority ethnic (BME) donor lists are currently not enough to meet the needs of patients on the waiting list.
"More donors from black, Asian, mixed race and minority ethnic groups are urgently needed to address an increase in patients from the same communities dying whilst waiting for an organ transplant," said NHS Blood and Transplant.
The group has been encouraging organisations to apply for funding to positively engage with local communities to address myths and barriers and increase support for organ donation among Britain's minority ethnic communities.