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Working in the same company, Rajesh Menon (left), who later discovered that he had only one kidney, and K. Mohammed Hanif, who donated one kidney to his brother. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: A small company in the UAE has a story that is worth sharing on World Kidney Day. Only two people are currently working there and both have only one kidney.

One is an employee, who is among the first kidney donors in the UAE in 1980s, and the other is his boss who learnt that he was born without a kidney only when he was 31 years old. Both are Indian expats.

Sharing their unique story to Gulf News, Rajesh Ravi Menon, 49, director at Bluarrows, an advertising and marketing agency in Sharjah, said he admired his employee K. Mohammed Hanif, 60, for the noble gesture he had done to save his brother’s life.

It was in 1986 that Hanif, then 25, donated one of his kidneys to his elder brother Mohammed Rafiq.

“When my brother used to work in India earlier, he had high blood pressure and giddiness and he was taking some medicines. He came over to Abu Dhabi later and started working with a money exchange. Gradually, his condition worsened.”

On further investigation, it was diagnosed that both his kidneys were damaged and he needed an urgent transplantation.

Of the six brothers in the family, it was only Hanif who had a compatible blood type.

“I was working in Bombay (now Mumbai). Some people told me not to donate a kidney because my health will be affected in future. I said, no. He is my brother. I need to save his life.”

Among first organ donations

Hanif said he flew into the UAE on a visit visa and donated a kidney to his brother at the UAE’s first transplant centre in Mafraq Hospital (currently Sheikh Shakbout Medical City).

It was under Dr Abdullah Daar, who has been credited with the first organ transplantation in the country in as early as 1985, that the surgery was done, he said.

Medical report
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A medical report issued from the Organ Transplant Unit of the Ministry of Health on March 24, 1987 certified that Hanif “underwent an operation at Mafraq Hospital on December 18, 1986, to donate one of his kidneys to his brother".

“He had no complications after the operation. He is now completely recovered and should be able to go back to work normally,” stated the report,

It was signed by Dr Daar, who was the consultant surgeon and head of the Unit, and Dr Ibrahim Hussein, a urologist at Mafraq Hospital.

Hanif, who has a son studying in college and a daughter who is about to be married, said he is proud to have saved his brother’s life and grateful to God that both of them have been living with no complications.

Indebted for new lease of life

Speaking to Gulf News from his hometown in Mangalore in the south Indian state of Karnataka, his brother Rafiq, 71, said he was indebted to Hanif for giving him a new lease of life 35 years ago. “I have lived so far and I feel far better in life, thanks to my brother. Presently, I am doing okay.”

Hanif's brother
Hanif's brother Rafiq. Image Credit: Supplied

He also took the opportunity to thank the pioneering team of doctors who did the successful transplant surgery.

“I am always thankful to Dr Daar, Dr Pingley, Dr Shanavas and Dr Shakuntala,” he said, trying to recollect the names of the doctors who treated him.

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K. Mohammed Hanif (left) with Rajesh Menon. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Revelation of solitary kidney

Meanwhile, Rajesh, a Keralite, said it was in 2003 that he got the shock of his life when it was diagnosed that he was born with a solitary kidney, a condition known as unilateral renal agenesis.

“During an office meeting, I had collapsed due to a severe pain in my back,” he said, recollecting the incident.

“My office staff took me to the nearby clinic and as per my doctor’s advice, I did an ultrasound. The report came as a shocker.”

Initially, he said, his doctor also found it difficult to believe it and advised him to do a CT Scan.

“Those days facilities to do a CT scan wdere rare and it was expensive. I still did it and it was confirmed that I have only one kidney in my body and it was enlarged.”

Rajesh said he subsequently got himself checked at the Christian Medical College in Vellore in India.

“Over there, further tests confirmed the diagnosis.” Because of his creatinine and urea levels,he was advised to go ona kidney diet with the help of a dietician. Ever since, Rajesh has been following the diet to as much as possible.

“No potassium rich food. I have to avoid all green vegetables and vegetables that are high in potassium. No red meat and no carbonated drinks. I also don’t have two protein foods at the same time. For example, I don’t have lentil and chicken together.”

How Rajesh, Hanif met

Rajesh said Hanif was introduced to him by the doctor who had treated him.

“He is a distant relative of the doctor. Hanif was looking for a job then and I recommended him to my friend Yaseen Hasan in 2003.”

After his stints with two companies, Hanif joined Rajesh in 2015.

Since he has mild complications, Rajesh said he was glad about Hanif working with him.

“Our relationship is special because of our health condition. It is good to keep in mind that there is someone who knows my condition and what to do when there is an issue. I understand that every employee has a dependent family to feed back home and I never stopped any of my employees’ salary even when I had personal financial issues when the company suffered a severe financial crunch during the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, unfortunately, we are only two of us in the company and managing everything by ourselves with the support of Yaseen Hasan.”

Challenges of living with one kidney

While Hanif said he has been healthy, following the regular diet and not using any medications, Rajesh has had his share of challenges with the creatinine and protein urea levels.

“There is always a fear in my mind as there is a partial damage in the only kidney that I have. I take care of my diet and lifestyle to an extent, but the work stress and being a food lover can make things difficult. I should be doing more to stay fit.”

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He said his wife Swapna has been the pillar of support for him in meeting the challenge.

“She takes extra care of my diet and gives me the mental support,” said the father of two teenagers.

His message to everyone on the World Kidney Day is: “Never ignore the slightest body aches if persistent. Do regular health checkups. Maintain a good diet and hydrate the kidneys well. Drink sufficient water.”