Saturday, July 09, 2011
Parting with a precious organ
By Shevlin Sebastian
In August, 2008, M.C. Roy, an entrepreneur, met up with classmates at a school re-union of the Rajagiri Public School at Kochi. “We were meeting each other after 30 years,” he says. One of the classmates Roy met was Dr. S. Krishnan, a nephrologist, who works in Australia. “The conversation veered towards kidney donations,” says Roy. “I learnt that there is a huge gap between demand and supply.” Roy asked whether anybody could be a donor, and Krishnan said, “Yes, provided the person clears a few medical tests and assessments.”
The seed was planted in Roy's mind. He did extensive research on the Internet about the pros and cons of donating a kidney. His conclusion: there was no risk at all. “A mother who donated to her child was in perfect health, even four decades after the surgery,” says Roy. “There were many testimonies like this.”
In June, 2009, Roy came to know that a family friend in Muscat, Drs. Simon and Mary, had a 23-year-old daughter, Anna, who was suffering from twin kidney failure. “Anna would go for dialysis thrice a week, returning often after midnight, since she was also working,” says Dr. Simon. “This went on for a year.” The parents were unable to find a donor and were going through a harrowing time.
So, one day, Roy sent an e-mail to Dr Simon, in which he said, “I am very clear about what I am saying. I would like to donate my kidney.” Not surprisingly, Simon could not believe it. He called Roy and said, “We really appreciate this. But I want the concurrence of every member of your family.”
This included Roy's three brothers and two sisters, his father, wife, and two children. Even though, legally, Roy only needed the permission of his wife. Nevertheless, with a zeal that also surprised him, Roy went about persuading his siblings that there was no danger in donating a kidney. Eventually, his family agreed.
The operation took place on November, 11, 2009, at Kochi’s Lakeshore Hospital. Roy and Anna were in adjoining operation theatres. While Roy had to undergo a laparoscopy, Anna had an open surgery.
The operation lasted for three hours. Roy stayed in the hospital for four days, while Anna had to spend 10 days. Thereafter, she had to carry on staying near the hospital for a month, so that she could be under observation.
The life of a kidney, depending on its quality, lasts about 15 years. Then you have to get a replacement. “Since it is a foreign body, the body will keep resisting it,” says Dr. Simon. “So, to suppress the immune system, immunosuppresant drugs have to be taken. Since one becomes prone to infections, because of this, the only precaution Anna has to take is to avoid contact with people who have infectious diseases.”
One and a half years later, Anna is having a thriving career as a HR manager in a well-known firm in Chennai. “She is living life to the fullest,” says Dr. Simon. “She looks so pretty now. We are immensely grateful to Roy.”
As for Roy, who looks in fine fettle, as he sips a glass of juice at a restaurant in Panampilly Nagar, many people meet him now and ask him, “Are you keeping in good health?” Roy says, “It is a misconception that one’s health gets affected. In fact, I have forgotten about the operation.” But there is a constant physical reminder of what he has done: a four inch-long perpendicular scar under the navel.
(Some names have been changed)
Be a donor
Many people are afraid of becoming living donors. But there is an alternative. You can become a cadaveric organ donor. That means, if you are brain dead, the kidney can be taken away from you. “The organ has to be alive if you have to harvest it,” says M C Roy, a voluntary donor. “Seven to nine lives can be saved from a healthy body which is brain dead.”
Everybody does not die of brain death. But those who do so, their organs can be used. “Why do you want to lose this wonderful opportunity to give life to other people?” says Roy. For those who are interested, there are organisations like the Society for Organ Retrieval and Transplantation and the Kidney Federation of India.
(The New Indian Express, Kochi)