‘It was never about politics – it was about friendship and saving a life’ Ex-mayoral candidate Simon secretly donated a kidney to MP Mahmood
THE life of a prominent Birmingham Labour MP was saved by a secret ‘live’ kidney transplant from one of the party’s brightest Euro MPs, it has emerged.
The incredible act of friendship between Perry Barr MP Khalid Mahmood and West Midlands MEP Siôn Simon was unknown to even close colleagues in a political world infamous for backstabbing and brutality.
Mr Mahmood, who is Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Europe Minister, and Simon – a West Midlands MEP and Minister in the last Labour Government – have spoken publicly for the first time to encourage others to donate organs.
They are supporting the Change the Law for Life campaign run by the Birmingham Post’s sister Daily Mirror newspaper.
Until today, it was a mystery who provided the kidney for Mr Mahmood’s life-saving operation three years ago. He had suffered complete renal failure in 2008, which was followed by six years of dialysis and two failed transplant matches.
The arduous treatment left him so sick that he struggled to climb even a small flight of stairs.
Mr Mahmood, 56, whose twin brother’s kidneys packed in before he died of a heart attack, said: “It was a simple act of kindness and I owe Siôn a debt of gratitude.
“I was quite flabbergasted. The decision is a huge one, to give one of your body parts to someone close, and for someone to take that decision is quite phenomenal.
“It was a very emotional time. I didn’t want to impose so when Siôn offered, I was hesitant, shocked, but he insisted. I could never have asked.”
Mr Simon, 49, joked: “I’m fine and Khalid has come back to life, which is a mixed blessing, obviously.”
The pair have been friends for 20 years and the Labour MEP told how he decided suddenly over lunch in Shere Khan, a Pakistani restaurant in Birmingham’s Star City complex, that he could donate one of his own kidneys.
“I could see Khalid getting more and more sick,” he said. “He started off being a bit sick, but with every month and year that passed he got more ill, and then he started to die.
“It’s miraculous the difference it can make to the recipient and kind of miraculous the difference it doesn’t make to the donor.
“I was just talking to him about it over lunch at Star City. He had been increasingly ill and looking as if he was going to die at some point.
“It was then that I realised actually I could help. I could do it instead of waiting and expecting he’d receive a kidney from somebody else. He hesitated and after a few weeks I said I’d ring them if he didn’t, so we sort of did it together.”
The transplant was carried out in Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital in January 2014 with the kidney removed from Mr Simon immediately inserted into Mr Mahmood.
Other MPs and the public in Mr Mahmood’s Perry Barr constituency knew he had undergone a successful operation, but the involvement of Mr Simon – until 2010 the MP for Birming- ham Erdington – has remained unknown until now.
Their disclosure follows the Daily Mirror’s revelation that Karie Murphy, Mr Corbyn’s chief of staff, donated a kidney used to save the life of a Sunderland lad she has never met.
The human body has two kidneys and functions perfectly well with one. Mr Simon stresses that he has suffered no ill-effects from the donation, although he was ‘poorly’ for some months after his intestines were disturbed during the operation. Theresa May followed Mr Corbyn last week and agreed to switch in England to a donor opt-out register rather than opt-in, boosting organ donations to save the 500 who die annually waiting for heart, kidney and other transplants.
Asked if he regretted not going public earlier when it might have helped him politically in this year’s race for West Midlands Mayor, in which he was pipped at the post by Tory Andy Street, Mr Simon insisted the kidney donation was personal, not political.
“I didn’t want a lot of fuss at the time,” he said. “It was just between us. I didn’t tell anybody. Nobody knew outside our closest family.
“During the past three years or so, I wondered if by not telling, it was only doing half the job, that we should talk about it and use the opportunity to urge others to do it.
“When Jeremy made his announcement and the Daily Mirror ramped up its campaign, me and Khalid thought it was the moment to do the same.
“Nobody can accuse us of doing this for political benefit and it was never about politics. It was about friendship and helping, saving a life.
“It was never a political action and so no, I don’t regret not talking about this earlier.”
Mr Mahmood, a former factory apprentice and taxi driver, said: “Like Siôn, I never wanted to capitalise on it. It was a favour. Most of the people in my family don’t know it was Siôn. Because there is this campaign, and it’s been long enough since it happened for us to, we feel this is the moment to talk in public to encourage others.”
He had been increasingly ill and looking as if he was going to die Siôn Simon
> Khalid Mahmood with Siôn Simon and far left, with Jeremy Corbyn. Left, Labour’s Karie Murphy, who also donated a kidney
> Perry Barr MP Khalid Mahmood and West Midlands MEP Siôn Simon