A Birmingham mini-cab driver has described how he travelled to Pakistan to buy a kidney rather than face years on dialysis waiting for a donor organ to become available.
Hassan – not his real name – from Bordesley Green suffered two infections as a result – the latest being potentially fatal hepatitis C – but said he would do the same again in an instant.
The 39-year-old father-of-two's kidney function had dwindled to 15 per cent as a result of undiagnosed high blood pressure. Previously fit and healthy, he went to Heartlands Hospital with migraines and tiredness and was whisked into intensive care to be diagnosed with kidney failure.
"When they took me round the dialysis ward I saw these lumps on the wrists of people where the tubes went in and they freaked me out. I touched them – it was like a heart was bouncing inside them. A family friend had had a kidney transplant in Pakistan and I sent my father over to check out the hospitals over there.
"He came back and said, yes, I could get it done at a hospital in Islamabad."
Shrugging off dire warnings by a renal nurse about infections and dirty tubes, he decided to go ahead with it, taking his two teenage daughters and mother and father.
He paid for a battery of tests which determined his fitness for the operation and his tissue type and was despatched to an office at the hospital where a database of willing potential donors was kept.
"They had hundreds of people on the register and right tissue types. It was like a quick fit job at a garage. They could supply the kidney and fit it and we talked about the price. In Pakistan money is the bottom line.
"The donor was 25, ten years younger than me, and he received #1,000.
"In the British press it's like the rich are killing them and ripping out their organs. But it's a case that people are poor and don't have any other option."
The operation took place on April 11, 2002. He was rushed back to intensive care with post-operative bleeding which meant a stay of 11 days at the hospital, and then he was free to leave.
In Britain he was found to have picked up a viral infection – which he claimed one-in-ten who had the operation in the UK also had – and eight months ago was diagnosed with hepatitis C, which he contracted via blood his family purchased in Pakistan for a transfusion.
But he added: "Having been on dialysis twice, I wouldn't hesitate about making the same decision. It is really horrible.
"I've saved the NHS money, and my family in Pakistan keep in touch with the donor, and they help him out with food, clothes and money. We look after him.
"My view is if you can help someone out and help improve your own life too, I don't see a problem with it."