OPINION : Organ donation: ‘The key to unlock the afterlife’

By Ritesh Misra

(Writer is the Commissioner of Surat Income Tax (appeals)

Surat: I did not have much idea about organ donation till recently. My childhood friend based in the UK, Dr. Rajinder Pal Singh, a well-known transplant surgeon, enlightened me about organ donation and its importance. It was he, who told me that Chennai and Surat are on the top list as far as organ donation is concerned.

In the newspapers in Surat, I used to read about sterling efforts of “Donate Life”, a non-government organization (NGO), for the organ donation initiative and how their volunteers, under the able leadership of Mr. Nilesh Mandlewala would reach out to the families of the brain dead patients to ensure their vital organs save the lives of needy patients.

Kirit Mandlewala is a personal friend of mine and the one thing that binds us together was Cricket. I casually mentioned the name of Nilesh Mandlewala to him, and to my pleasant surprise, he told me that they are real brothers.  Later on, I met Nileshji, He was earlier a leading businessman in the textiles sector and was also the President of the leading trade body, the Southern Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SGCCI),  but for the last several years he is focused and dedicated to social causes and the noble cause of organ donation.

Nilesh Ji informed me about various aspects of this noble and voluntary deed and most of the information was new and very inspiring to me.

Why organ donation?

It is the need of the day. It is a hope for a bright future for others who require organs. In any case, for a person who has moved on, his/her organs are of no use to him but can change the lives of others who are still alive, and with this noble act, we can now have a better life. There is also a need for an increase of organ donors since many do not survive simply due to the non-availability of an organ for transplant.

Some factual/historical information about organ donation;

The first known kidney transplant from a living donor was on December 23, 1954. The donor, Ronald Lee Harrick donated his kidney to his twin brother Richard. American plastic surgeon Dr. Joseph Murray was the doctor and he was awarded the Nobel prize for medicine in 1990 for this pioneering surgery which gave Richard life for eight more years.

Before this, on June 17, 1950, Dr. Richard Lawler had performed the first kidney transplant on a 49-year-old Ruth Tucker from a deceased donor. The deceased had died of cirrhosis of the liver and Dr. Lawler’s comments were, “not the most ideal donor, but the best we could find”. The new kidney was rejected by Tucker’s body and had to be removed ten months later. But it had done its job. It helped Tucker’s remaining kidney to restore normal kidney function, enabling her to live for five more years.

The first heart transplant of course is well known. It was by Dr. Christian Barnard in 1967 in South Africa.

The youngest donor in history is a 100-minute baby, whose kidneys were transplanted to an adult in 2015. Kudos to the noble parents. The oldest donor is a 107-year-old Scottish lady. Kudos to her and her family.

History of Transplant surgery in India

India’s first kidney transplant was done by Dr. PK Sen at Mumbai’s King Edward Memorial Hospital, Mumbai in May 1965. India’s 1st liver transplant happened in 1998 at Delhi’s Apollo hospital. The doctors were Dr. S Rajasekhar and Dr. A.S.Soin. My childhood friend and classmate, Dr. Suvojit, was part of their team in 2001-2002. Proud of you, dost. Suvojit recollects that Dr. Rajasekhar and his colleagues used to start at 4 am and finish at midnight, sometimes at 2 am, a staggering 22 hours later. Inspirational. Respect and regards.

In a Government hospital in India, the first liver transplant was in 2004-05 at AIIMS, New Delhi and another childhood friend and classmate, Dr. Pramod Patra, who was a senior resident at AIIMS was part of a 17-member doctors team. As far as he recollects, the surgery went on for 17 hours. Proud of u, do

The first heart transplant was carried out in 1994 by Dr. P.Venugopal and his team at AIIMS, New Delhi. The first-ever lung transplant and pancreas transplant came as recently as 2012 and 2014 in Mumbai’s Hinduja Hospital and PGIMER, Chandigarh respectively.

Currently, Dr. Pranjal Modi of Ahmedabad is doing wonderful work in this area. My friend, Dr. Rajinder knows him well. Nilesh Mandlewala also works in close co-operation with him.

Long way to go; Tremendous need in India

More than 5 lakh people die every year due to a lack of donors. For those needing the precious gift of eyesight, the number is more than 10 lakh. Unfortunately, there is an increase in unhealthy lifestyles and increase in stress due to which the statistics become increasingly more unfavorable year after year.

For various reasons, India’s organ donation rate (ODR) is very low. For every 1 million population, we have only 0.5 donors ( 1 in 20 Lakhs), whereas the corresponding numbers for 1 million people in Spain are 36, Croatia is 35 and the USA is 27.2.

There is a need for awareness. With awareness, certainly, our statistics can improve vis-a-vis developed countries. The awareness has to come that organs donated by one person can save the lives of 8 people. That’s eight times the joy and eight new lives.

Organ Donation vs Body Donation

Both are different. One is for life and one is for science. In organ donation, organs are used to treat/help others needing organs. In body donation, the body is donated to a medical college for scientific research and for teaching medical students. Two famous personalities who have gone in for full body donation are Nanaji Deshmukh Ji and Jyoti Basu Ji.

Similarly, many famous personalties have gone in for organ donation pledges.

Whether to go in for organ donation or body donation is a choice one may take after consultation with the family. Please remember that this is a family decision and not an individual one. Discussion with family members is a must.

Active co-operation of all is required especially police and airport authorities.

One would think, where does police come into this. Their role is extremely important. Organs are of use to a recipient, only if harvested early and transported early. This is because the time between recovering the tissues/organs and transplanting them is very less, and is just 4-6 hours for lungs, 4 hours for heart, 24 hours for liver and pancreas, and 72 hours for the kidney. Police and traffic departments help in establishing a green corridor which has been very effective in saving lives. Similarly, airport authorities facilitate speedy takeoffs and landing and also night landing and takeoffs in a very short time.

Ending with Some thoughts as to why we should go consider going in for organ donation;

“Not everyone has the chance to be God for another; You do”.

“You can live twice”

“Organ donation is a blessing that stays long after you have passed away”.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”. (Mahatma Gandhi).

Inspired by these objectives and ideals, my wife Milly and I have taken the pledge as organ donors.  This pledge was taken by us on the occasion of my 51st birthday as we want to live beyond, love beyond, and not just receive the gift of a life well-lived, but gift it further. This was something we had thought of for quite some time ago and we decided to take the pledge.

Thanks, friends. Let us live life afterlife. Warm regards to all.