A kidney transplant patient whose sister was refused a visa to become his donor has spoken of his elation and humility at the public response to his case as final preparations are made for his life-changing operation.
Oliver Cameron, 38, was told last month that his sister Keisha Rushton can travel from her home in Jamaica to donate a kidney after The Independent highlighted his predicament and the Home Office minister, James Brokenshire, subsequently overturned the earlier refusal by his officials to allow her to enter Britain.
The case made headlines around the world and provoked calls from politicians, religious leaders and campaign groups for the authorities to reconsider, as well as an online petition signed by hundreds demanding a reversal of officials’ draconian stance.
Mr Cameron, who must undergo gruelling dialysis three times a day, said that he was grateful for the high-level support but added he had been most affected by the messages and help he received from ordinary people, including the many readers of The Independent who made offers of financial help after he found he could no longer afford his sister’s air fare.
He said: “The response was simply overwhelming and it filled me with such gratitude and faith that there are plenty of people out there who care, are decent and want to help. I cannot express how grateful I am for the manner in which people have responded. It has been genuinely humbling.”
Mr Cameron, a father of four who learned he needed a kidney transplant after suffering near-fatal renal failure in December 2012, is now entering the final stage of tests at the Royal Free Hospital in north London ahead of undergoing the procedure in the coming weeks.
His sister, who arrived in Britain three weeks ago, had been told last year that she was being refused the temporary visa to allow her to make good on her promise to donate a kidney to her brother because immigration officials were not satisfied she would return to Jamaica.
In a letter signed anonymously by “Entry Clearance Officer 5”, the self-employed hairdresser was told that consideration had been given to the “compassionate aspects” of her case but the authorities were not satisfied “that you genuinely intend a short visit”.
Ms Rushton cares for her elderly mother and has left six of her seven children in Jamaica while she undergoes treatment to save her brother in London. She said: “After all the struggle I’m just happy to be here to have this opportunity to do something for my brother. He’s my brother and it really means so much that, thanks to the help of people out there who read about our case, I can do this thing.”
The brother and sister, who were already identified as a match prior to Ms Rushton first applying for a visa last summer, have been undergoing a series of tests to ensure the best chance of success for the transplant.
Mr Cameron, from Stoke Newington, north London, had been originally scheduled to undergo the operation last autumn and has suffered complications, including problems with one of his eyes, since the postponement.
He said: “I think we would both like to get on now and complete the operation. But we must be patient and wait our turn. It has been a long, hard journey and we’re nearly there.”