By CATHERINE SALMOND | Edinburgh Evening News
TWO-year-old Liyana Ahmed is prodding her mum's arm, prompting her to change the television channel so she can catch up with the goings on in Balamory.
Her dad, Mahfuz, is in the kitchen making a cup of tea before he gets ready to head out to work, leaving his wife and daughter to spend some quality time together in their Gorgie flat.
It is a typical family scene, one of comings and goings, noise and laughter, yet one that mum Suraiya, 31, feared she would never see as she battled for her life with severe kidney failure in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, her organs functioning at a mere seven per cent by the time she gave birth.
As Mahfuz, 35, helps to open an orange lolly for Liyana, wrestling with the wrapper while she gets increasingly impatient at the wait, Suraiya takes a turn, smiling at the pair as they sit beside her on the settee in their sitting room.
She knows that if her husband had not come forward to donate his kidney she may not be sitting here today and finds it hard to put into words how much it means to her that in their Muslim culture, where such organ donations are rare, Mahfuz went under the knife for her.
"I didn't want to put him through all of this," the former Stevenson College student explains. "But in the end he said enough was enough, and I agreed because of our daughter.
"It is very unusual to do this in our culture. Usually it is the norm that women can give an organ for a man, but men should not come forward for women."
This week is National Transplant Week and Suraiya is keen to share her story, opening up about one of the darkest periods of her life, which saw her change from a confident mother-to-be, to a nervous, desperately ill patient in need of a life-saving organ donation.
It all began when she was 12 weeks pregnant, excited about becoming a mum but battling with extreme tiredness as she juggled her home life with her job as a shop assistant at the Superdrug store on Princes Street.
"Everything was going fine until I started feeling really tired," she says. "I was making it to work and that was about it, falling asleep as soon as I got home after a shift."
Eventually she went to the doctor, tests were done and it emerged that something was wrong with her kidneys. Suraiya only learned later that her kidney function at that stage was down to around 25 per cent.
Despite medication, the next few months were a battle as she lost weight - a staggering two stones in total during her pregnancy - and continued to struggle with tiredness, before further tests revealed the extent of her problem.
"I remember getting a call at 5 pm while I was at work and the doctor said I had to get to hospital straight away," she says.
"I said I was so tired and could I come in the next morning, but they said my bed was ready and they needed to know if my baby was ok.
"I hadn't really been that worried up until that point, because I thought that I would know if my kidneys were failing. But I went home and packed some clothes, anything I could find, and headed straight there. I was so scared. All I could think about was my baby and what if something was wrong with her."
Suraiya spent hours at the hospital undergoing tests before doctors broke the good news at midnight that, thankfully, her unborn child was alive and well at 24 weeks, but she would have to spend several more days at the ERI before further tests showed doctors the full picture.
"I was told my kidneys had failed and I had only 18 per cent function left," she says. "I was so shocked. I was told I could die. I remember calling my sister and crying down the phone. She was crying too, telling me not to worry, but she could hardly speak."
The diagnosis was all too harrowing for Suraiya and her siblings, who had already lost their father when Suraiya was still a pupil at Orwell Primary in Dalry, with kidney failure among the conditions he suffered from before his premature death.
But the mother-to-be knew she had to battle on, undergoing regular checks at the hospital and a period of stay for around two months for close monitoring.
And then the day came for Liyana to make her entrance into the world, delivered by C-section on Easter Sunday in 2009, weighing a small 3.3lbs.
"It was just before 3pm and I got to see her for a few seconds before she was taken away to a special ward because she was so small," says Suraiya. "Everything seemed to happen so fast and all I wanted to know was that she was ok.
"After that, I became quite ill and was sick all day and night. Eventually I got to see her as Mahfuz took me there in a wheelchair. She was covered in tubes and I found it all very hard."
Day by day, Suraiya's kidneys were getting worse and a biopsy showed she needed a transplant. So, while she spent hours each week on dialysis, her family appealed for help, sticking posters in shop windows around Fountainbridge for people to come forward. Using a family member was out of the question owing to a genetic link to kidney failure among Suraiya's relatives.
"Lots of people were coming forward," she says. "But because of the rules, we could not use these people.
I was then told I wasn't well enough for an operation anyway, but seven months later after a few infections from the dialysis, my husband, who knew he was a match, said enough was enough."
On December 15, 2010, the couple made their way to the Royal Infirmary again, Mahfuz entering the operating theatre before his wife, who later received his kidney - and the gift of life.
"We were in the same room when we woke up," she smiles. "I asked straightaway how he was and he was fine. We were home within the week. I had been so nervous about it all, so it was such a great relief when everything went ok."
Today, as she plays with her daughter, Suraiya admits it has been a tough ride, especially being away from the toddler for so long in the first two years of her life, her husband becoming principal carer, rushing between hospital wards to visit the infant and his wife, until the baby was released with a good bill of health.
"I was a mum who seemed to go away a lot," says Suraiya, who has also been given a good bill of health. "But Liyana and I are very close now, which is lovely.
"In our culture what my husband did for me is unusual, but in such situations people are desperate for help.
"I always tell people that if you want to donate an organ you should. It should be your choice."
A DEADLY LEGACY
PEOPLE across the Lothians are being urged to "Sign up to Save a Life" by joining the national organ donor register during National Transplant Week (July 7 to 14).
NHS Lothian is asking people to support its campaign, which launched in November, to raise the number of registered donors from 42 per cent to 50 per cent.
The number of people joining the register across the Lothians doubled within the first two months, with 44 per cent of the local population now registered organ donors
A dedicated website, www.nhslothian.scot.nhs.uk/signuptosavealife, has been created and donors can also join up by texting "fifty" on their mobile phone to 61611. An iPhone application has also been designed as part of the campaign, which is free to download from iTunes.