Awareness among hospitals key in promoting organ donation

BENGALURU: Nafisa Mohammed Khanji, 28, got a fresh lease of life a year ago when she underwent a heart transplant. Now in the pink of health, the Surat woman received the heart of a Mumbai doctor who was declared brain dead. A mother of two, Nafisa underwent the heart transplant at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital in Mumbai.

“All that we knew about the donor is that he was a doctor. It is because of his family’s decision that Nafisa is alive today. Earlier, we used to take her to hospital once every two weeks as she needed external oxygen supply to breathe. She’s now able to lead a normal life though she has to be on medication,” said her brother-in-law Ayub Sulaiman Khanji. Nafisa’s husband works in a village for a monthly salary of Rs 4,000-5,000.

Most of the money for the transplant came from crowd-funding, Ayub told TOI.

While there are many potential brain-dead patients whose organs can be donated to the needy, doctors themselves are often reluctant to counsel families, said Dr Vinay Kumaran, head, hepatobilliary surgery and liver transplant, Kolilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital. 

“All it requires for a hospital is to have a functional ICU and operation theatre to declare a potential cadaver donor brain dead. The hospital needs to have a team of expert doctors to diagnose brain death. But in many cases, hospitals don’t counsel the patient’s family members. That’s how organs go waste,” he explained, stressing on the need to create awareness.

According to Dr Julius Punnen, senior consultant cardiac surgeon, Narayana Health, Karnataka has to be as proactive as Tamil Nadu when it comes to organ donation campaigns. He says there is a need to create awareness among doctors in identifying patients for transplants and activating teams when there is a potential donor around. Dr Punnen, who is known for personally transporting the ice box with the retrieved heart on three occasions, said: “Once the heart is retrieved, it has to be transplanted within four hours; each minute is valuable.”

State’s youngest cadaver donor was 2 years old

In Karnataka too, heart transplants have saved lives. The youngest cadaver donor in the state was Yatharth, 2, whose heart now beats in a Russian child. The child’s family took the decision to donate his organs on December 18, 2014. Yatharth was suffering from brain fever when he was shifted to Manipal Hospital. The boy suffered a cardiac arrest and was declared brain dead. “We experienced the pain of losing our child and didn’t want any other parent to go through the same,” said Amit Upadhyay, Yatharth’s father. His heart was airlifted to Chennai where it was transplanted into a Russian toddler. The boy’s kidneys, liver and corneas went to needy patients in Bengaluru.