A Midland transplant surgeon who has helped save hundreds of lives in the region has launched a charity to make the same life-saving operations in developing Third World countries.
Andrew Ready, a consultant renal surgeon based at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Edgbaston, has pioneered the use of live donors in kidney transplants and now wants to train teams in parts of Africa and the Caribbean.
Together with colleague Dr Jennie Jewett-Harris, he has set up a charity called Transplant Links, to fund the training and mentoring of surgical teams in Ghana, Kenya and Trinidad.
Inspired by the work of an organisation called Chain of Hope, which trains medics to perform heart procedures, they set up the charity to help people in renal failure who are dying because they cannot afford dialysis or a transplant.
Mr Ready explained: "We're not talking about people living in the sticks, but people living in cities in these countries, where it costs $100 for a single session of dialysis. Typically patients in renal failure require at least three dialysis sessions a week, sometimes more, so $300 a week is a lot of money, which people in Britain would struggle to find.
"So when their money runs out they die, often leaving their families to meet the debts from loans they've taken out to fund the treatment in the first place. I found that so frustrating that a civilised disease, one that is easily managed in the western world, is tantamount to a death sentence."
Following fact-finding trips to Trinidad, Ghana and Kenya during the past year, Transplant Links wants to set up three units, with work set to begin next year with intensive tutoring visits.
But this does not come cheap. Each centre will require at least three training sessions, which cost between £25,000 and £5,000 depending on the size of the mentoring team. Full medical teams from Britain, led by Mr Ready, take their own holiday time to teach the procedures involved in both cadaveric and living donor kidney transplant programmes.
The QE's own living donor transplant initiative is the biggest single-site scheme in the UK, where the renal team have performed 61 procedures this year.
But Mr Ready is keen that the units established by the charity are able to perform at least 100 kidney transplants, from both sources, per year.
He said: "By the end of 2008 we would like these centres to be doing their own transplants, and developing their own living donor programme.
"It is entirely realistic that with the right training, infrastructure and education in place these centres could perform 100 transplants a year.
"Our initial investment, of say £60k per unit, may over ten years save 1,000 lives which comes to about £60 per life saved. That's not a lot to ask, is it?"
Birmingham's Deputy Lord Mayor, Coun Mike Sharpe (Lab, Tyburn), underwent a live kidney transplant - receiving an organ donated by his wife Thelma - at the QE.
He is now backing Mr Ready's fundraising drive to help fund Transplant Links' training initiative.
"What Andrew is doing with his work in Africa and elsewhere if fantastic, but it is worrying that after dialysis there is little or no hope of a transplant," he said.
"I cannot thank him, or Thelma, enough for what they have done for me, so I am more than happy to support Transplant Links' endeavours in these developing countries."