29 November 2011
By Prerna Sodhi
New Delhi India
Eleven years have elapsed since she received a heart from a 14–year–old boy, but the memory still brings tears to Priti Unhale's eyes. The charitable act made the difference between life and death, and she thanks the anonymous soul every day.
In November 2000, Unhale's condition was diagnosed as dilated cardiomyopathy (a heart condition). She was beset with fear, as a donor was hard to come by. "The doctors told me I had just had six months to find a donor. Every day seemed like a struggle as my family went from one hospital to another. Back then, the systems were not streamlined and I was rather lucky to find a donor," said Unhale.
Though things are not the same, the organ donation has vastly improved her quality of life. "Although I'll have to take medicines all my life, my condition is much better now," she added. Unhale is now a counsellor and helps All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in promoting organ donations.
She says she is one of the lucky ones to have received the organ she needed. Her thoughts were echoed by the doctors during a public lecture at AIIMS on the Indian Organ Donation Day 2011.
The data presented by doctors showed a yawning gap between the demand and supply of organs. The first heart transplant in India was back in 1994 but the trend has not picked up. To date, only 30 transplants have taken place against a demand of 50,000 a year. Kidney transplant is quite common, but only 20,952 people have received a kidney between 1972 and 2011.
"In India, the demand outstrips availability of the organs. This can be attributed to lack of public awareness and difficulty in retrieving the organs," said Dr D Bhowmik, additional professor (nephrology) at AIIMS. "In fact, we occasionally come across patients who refuse to accept organs. This is most common in heart transplantation," added Dr Bhowmik.
Doctors say fewer donations are also because of religious beliefs and the lack of infrastructure. "Donors are aplenty; what poses problems is lack of awareness. So many road accidents take place every year in the country. If even 50% of the victims are able to donate their organs, there will be no shortage. We also need to bring together religious gurus and leaders, and spread the message that no religion bars one from donating organs," said Dr. RK Sharma, director and head department (nephrology) at AIIMS.
Not just doctors, but even families of organ donors exhorted Delhiites to come forward and donate. "It is important to understand that your loved one can gift life to someone. People should not hesitate in taking this opportunity to save a life," said Yogesh Tanwar, brother of donor Manish Tanwar.
In ideal circumstances, the organs retrieved from one person can benefit 11 people: six people from two corneas, two people from two kidneys, and one each from a heart, liver and pancreas. To facilitate organs donations the government of India had formed the 'National Organ Transplant Programme'. It is under this programme that AIIMS organized the second Indian Organ Donation Day on Monday.