‘It was never about pol­i­tics – it was about friend­ship and sav­ing a life’ Ex-may­oral can­di­date Si­mon se­cretly do­nated a kid­ney to MP Mah­mood

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Kevin Maguire

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

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