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Life giving question: Fatima’s Big Life journey

I’ve never experienced a workplace like this for giving so much support to staff.

When they ask you at a job interview whether you have any questions, the rule is to make them interesting but not challenging.

At her job interview for Clinical Locality Manager with Big Life’s Self Help service, Fatima Mashadi threw the rule book away. “I asked whether donating a kidney would have any impact on their decision to offer me the job.” When they said, “absolutely not” and offered her the job it marked a major crossroads in her life.

Within weeks she was in Glasgow having an operation to give a life saving kidney to her brother. “I had made the decision to donate a kidney to him back in 2015. He’d been suffering from kidney disease and I’d noticed how ill he was looking. His wife told me he’d started on dialysis and needed a transplant. Without hesitation I said, ‘I’m doing it, I’m going to give him my kidney’.”

After rigorous testing Fatima was found to be a perfect match. But it was to be another four years before she got the chance to save her brother’s life. “First my brother wanted to try stem cell treatment to avoid surgery. Sadly, it didn’t work for him. Then in 2018 he was in a coma following a cardiac arrest and brain haemorrhage and it took a while for him to recover enough to have the transplant.”

In June last year just after her job offer, Fatima got a few weeks’ notice to go to Glasgow for the operation. “We had our operations on the same day. The night before, I said to my brother ‘I’ll see you in the morning’. He said, ‘I love you’. And you don’t get that ever.”

Complications meant it was three months before Fatima was able to return to work. The support Big Life had shown her again proved vital. “I am passionate about my work and was keen to start my new job. But I was very fatigued, still experiencing pain and needed to move around a lot. Vicky, my manager, gave me fantastic support organising a phased return, flexible hours and giving me lots of encouragement. When Fay asked me how I was getting on I was unbelievably touched. I’ve never experienced a workplace like this for giving so much support to staff.”

Fatima is now looking to the future and the positives from her surgery. “I’m going to start running with another kidney donor so we can take part in the British Transplant Games this year. I’m also going to become an ambassador for kidney donation in BAME communities because 1 in 5 people die on the waiting list.

After the transplant Fatima’s brother had a rough ride too but he came through it. “He’s doing really well now. He’s free from dialysis and has a healthy kidney he can survive with. It was an honour to donate a kidney and save a life, I have no regrets.”