A Kings Norton woman has launched an appeal to raise funds for lifesaving medical treatment for her husband.
University graduate Karis Jagne lives and grew up in Kings Norton and is currently a communications intern at Coventry University. She first met her husband MJ in 2007 when they were both in their teens, unaware of his ill health.
When he first arrived in the UK, MJ was suffering from heart valve disease affecting one valve – now the disease is affecting 3 of his 4 heart valves and if his 4th becomes affected, he will develop complete heart failure.
MJ left his home in the Gambia and came to the UK in 2006 aged just 17. Karis says that his family had been advised by an insurance company that he would be able to receive treatment for the heart condition he had suffered from since the age of 11 and that it would be paid for with funds from The Gambia.
So MJ’s mother, along with a solicitor, brought him here, thinking this was the right thing to do for her son. MJ lived with an aunt in Birmingham for a while, awaiting treatment.
However, Karis says that MJ was not entitled to NHS treatment as funds which should have been sent from The Gambia were never sent and his family were never able to contact the insurance company again.
Karis and MJ have been advised by his consultant that his condition indicates a need for triple valve replacement which, due to his condition, would normally be performed within the next 3 months. Karis said: “[Consultants have] said that surgery is essential to repair his heart and that medication on its own won’t fix him, and without the surgery he could die within five years. [But] neither can operate unless they’re given the funds.
“They’ve said the only way they’ll be able to operate is if he’s having a heart attack and is literally about to die on the table. That’s what they call an emergency, though we think that just the threat of him dying within five years is an emergency in itself, especially since MJ is only 25.”
Karis stressed that if MJ doesn’t receive the surgery and ends up on the operating table in an emergency situation, his chances of recovery would be greatly reduced. His best chance of recovery is if he has the surgery he needs within the next 12 to 18 months.
Since the Gambian funds never arrived, the Home Office has ruled that MJ is not entitled to free treatment on the NHS. As the lifesaving surgery he needs is not available in The Gambia, Karis has decided to try and raise the funds needed to save her husband’s life herself.
She needs to raise a total of £30,000 to cover the surgery and recovery, and has already managed to raise almost £12,000 online, with donations coming in from well-wishers all over the world.
MP for Northfield Richard Burden has been supporting Karis and MJ, including meeting last summer with the (then) Immigration Minister, Mark Harper.
Mr Burden said: “The Home Office have persistently refused to see the wood for the trees in relation to Mr Jagne’s case. The fact is that if Mr Jagne does not get the treatment he needs, he will die.
“The treatment he needs is not available in the country to which they want to deport him. I will continue to press Ministers to show some common humanity here and let Mr Jagne stay to get the treatment he needs, with support from his British wife and her family.”
And Mr Burden added: “I know the family will hugely appreciate any help people can give towards raising money towards Mr Jagne’s live-saving operation.”
And Karis said she does not want people to see her husband as a so-called “health tourist” – he had travelled here in good faith expecting his surgery to be paid for by funds from the Gambia. When the funding never materialised, he knew the treatment was not available in Gambia and faced death at a young age if he returned.
She said: “All I want to do is make sure my husband stays alive. He’s young. He’s otherwise healthy. He’s human.”