Rajat Sharma

Organ donation laws are outdated, they need to be changed

akbToday I want to salute the family members of a 46-year-old woman Kamini Patel from Surat, who was declared brain dead after a severe brain haemorrhage. In a benevolent act of humanity, the family members allowed organ harvesting from her body. The timely plan, organized meticulously by officials both by road and air, gave a fresh lease of life to seven lives in Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Hyderabad.

Kamini Patel hailed from Bardoli taluka of Surat. Her heart, lungs, liver, kidney and eyes were immediately sent to donors spread in three different cities. Kamini had a severe brain haemorrhage on May 19 due to high blood pressure. She was rushed to Shelby Hospital in Surat, where neurosurgeons performed a surgery.

She continued to remain in coma and on June 5, a committee of doctors declared her brain dead. Kamini’s husband Bharat Patel is a farmer and as a social activist, he is part of a US-based group that has been active in providing support to Covid-19 victims. An NGO called Donate Life got in touch with the family, and her husband and two sons agreed for organ harvesting.

And then, the most meticulously planned operation was executed with precision. The heart was to be sent from Surat to Mumbai and transplanted within four hours, both the lungs were to be sent to Hyderabad, and kidney and liver were to be given to donors in Ahmedabad for immediate transplant in the bodies of recipients. Every part of this operation had to be executed meticulously. Kamini’s family members had a last look at her near dead body, her sons wept at her feet, and then came out. Soon after, team of doctors entered the ICU and started organ harvesting that involved preserving the organs needed for transplant. Simultaneously, teams of doctors in Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Hyderabad were ready in ICUs for receiving the organs for transplant.

The entire operation was coordinated with the help of Gujarat’s State Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation(SOTTO), which is connected to National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation (NOTTO). Since there were no takers for the heart, it was sent to H. N. Reliance Foundation Hospital in Mumbai. Since there were no takers for the lungs in the entire western region, they were sent to a 31-year-old woman recipient in KIMS Hospital in Hyderabad. One kidney was sent to a patient in Sterling Hospital in Ahmedabad, while her eyes were donated to the Lok Drishti Eye Bank in Surat.

The heart was harvested first. It was transported 300 km away to Mumbai within a span of exactly 100 minutes. At the dead of night, an ambulance carried the organ to airport through a special corridor, for being sent to Mumbai by air. Normally Surat airport remains closed for night operations, but on this special night, police and local administration got the airport opened, for transporting the heart and lungs by chartered flights to Mumbai and Hyderabad respectively. The 940-km distance from Surat to Hyderabad was completed within 150 minutes. Kamini’s kidney and liver were transported to Ahmedabad by road, through a special corridor, within three hours. A woman patient in Ahmedabad got the donated kidney the same night through transplantation. A 58-year-old patient got her liver transplanted.

At the RIMS Hospital in Hyderabad, family members of 31-year-old woman patient Naina Patil are today literally worshipping Kamini as a saviour goddess. Naina was infected with Covid-19 on April 18. She was admitted to a Jalgaon hospital on April 22 but since there was no improvement, she had to be airlifted to Hyderabad to be admitted to RIMS. She was treated in RIMS for 15 days, but by that time, both her lungs were badly damaged. Her husband got in touch with organ donation NGOs and waited for several days.

Ultimately, Fate smiled and on June 6, Naina’s husband got a call from Surat. Doctors at RIMS Hospital immediately carried out tests, and told their Surat counterparts that the transplant was feasible. The lungs reached Hyderabad by air within two and a half hours, and both the organs were transplanted the same night. Naina and her family members have thanked Kamini Patel’s family for acting as a Good Samaritan in saving her life.

The distance from Surat to Ahmedabad is roughly 260 km and on normal days it takes at least five hours to reach Ahmedabad. On June 6, a ‘green corridor’ was created and the distance was covered in less than three hours. At Kidney Disease Research Centre in Ahmedabad, Kamini’s kidney was transplanted in the body of a 31-year-old woman, while another kidney was transplanted in the body of a 27-year-old woman in Sterling Hospital, Ahmedabad. The liver was transplanted in the body of a 58-year old patient in the same city.

We must praise the family members of Kamini Patel for doing a great service to humanity. Normally, in large sections of our society, donating organs is considered a social taboo, and this needs to be countered. A woman, on her death bed, donates all her organs, giving fresh lease of life to five persons, and eyesight to two others. But, in India, only five out of 4 million people donate their organs, while the average donors in USA is 128 and in Spain 188 out of 4 million people.

According to AIIMS Organ Retrieval Banking Organization (ORBO), every year 1.5 to two lakh people require kidney transplant, but hardly 8,000 kidney transplants are carried out. Every year, 40 to 50,000 liver transplant cases come up, but hardly 1,500 livers are available for transplant. Every year, nearly 15,000 heart transplants are required, but hardly 250 hearts are available from donors. More than 2.5 lakh people need cornea transplants, but hardly 60,000 get cornea transplants.

Social awareness is needed to motivate people to donate their organs after death. In several cases involving kidney transplants from people who are alive, legal processes are time taking. By the time, a recipient gets organ from a relative donor, he or she dies before the committee approves the donation.

Today, I tried to help a 45-year-old patient in getting a liver transplant. He had an old father and two small kids to look after, and was the sole earning member of his family. His wife was ready to donate her liver to her husband but their blood groups did not match. A matching blood group donor, who was a distant relative, was available. Doctors were ready for transplant, but it is very difficult to get approval from the medical board. Laws relating to organ donations are outdated and need to be changed. Unless these laws are changed, it is very difficult to carry out organ transplants on a large scale.

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