Yorkshire Choice Awards: Leeds mum who saved her son's life now plays a key role in Homeless Hampers charity
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She had already gone through so much with husband Aky in order to have children, with IVF treatment helping them to eventually conceive twins Akash and Dinish. The Leeds couple then learned in the early stages of the pregnancy that Akash was considered abnormally small and had developed cysts on his brain and kidneys. Tina said: “The prognosis was that he wasn't going to survive, and I would need to prepare myself just to give birth to one twin.”
Terminating the pregnancy was not an option, Tina was told, and so she carried the twins for 28 weeks before getting a C-section in June 1998. The couple returned home with their healthy daughter Dinish, while Akash spent his first few weeks in the intensive care unit (ICU).
Even on his way home to the couple a few weeks later, doctors were adamant that he wouldn’t survive. Tina said: “We were preparing ourselves to lose him and he just kept fighting.”
At six months old, he began dialysis and trips to the hospital became more frequent. Tina said: “We lived like that for about four years of our lives. He was on the organ donor register but unfortunately, there was no match found for Akash.”
The couple pleaded with doctors to see if one of them was a match after their son’s condition worsened and Tina became her son’s first donor on January 2, 2004. The procedure was challenging and the recovery period could only be described as rough. “I just knew I needed to pull myself together,” she said. “For the kids, for Aky, and that's it really. It gave us a new lease of life, it changed everything for us as family. We'd never been abroad anywhere. All that changed for us and we had a healthy guy.”
In early 2015, the donated kidney began to lose function and the family found themselves in the “same horrible place again” as Akash was put back on dialysis. The teenager had dangerously high blood pressure, which left his parents scrambling to find another donor.
By the time the doctors gave Aky the green light, Akash had experienced a brain haemorrhage. Dinish would visit often in ICU and talk to her brother, which Tina believes is what “willed him to live”. The 54-year-old added: “She taught him to read again, but there's certain things that he'll never get back.”
The doctors hesitantly signed off on another transplant and Akash received a kidney from his dad in November 2015. “It was tough,” recalls Tina. “We said that we will do anything to keep him alive. So I did it the first time, Aky did it the second time – but we were in a corner.”
There was relief for the family that the procedure was a success but the many battles they had faced left their mark. Tina, who works full-time as a rota coordinator in A&E, said: “We had all these sort of pent-up feelings that we didn't know what to do with and we've never been the kind of people that have felt sorry for ourselves or said ‘why us?’ because Akash has never done it."
Having seen one of their own children get a second chance at life, Tina and Aky wanted to give the same opportunity to others. They began volunteering with Homeless Hampers in 2016, taking meals, flask of coffee and clothes out to people on the streets and took over running the operation entirely within a few months.
Tina said: “Both of my children help prep the meals and load up the van. Akash loves being part of the charity. He’ll never work – we know that because of the stroke – but it doesn't matter to us. We will always look after him.”
Now with more than 500 volunteers, the charity supports food donations for nine homeless hostels across Leeds, Bradford and Ilkley, as well as food banks and community hubs. It is nominated for a Yorkshire Choice Award in the local fundraisers of the year category, while Tina and Aky have been shortlisted for the volunteer of the year award.
Tina added: “I had no idea we would be where we are today or how Homeless Hampers would be as big as it is.”