Emergency Call 118
Monday, June 12, 2017

Organ transplantation; the incredible race against time

A man meets with an accident. Let us call him Ajay. Ajay is seriously injured, he is taken to the Accident and Emergency department of a hospital, the doctors try their best to save him but it is too late; he passes away. In the same hospital, another young man is getting ready for yet another dialysis session; we’ll call him Alain, he does dialysis twice a week. He knows that dialysis will only provide a temporary solace but he cannot do otherwise.

Now let us try to imagine this scene differently. Ajay is seriously injured, he is taken to the nearest life support center. The doctors try their best but fail to save him. They confirm brain stem death and proceed to keep the organs alive. Since Ajay has a donor card, another team starts looking for a suitable recipient. One thing leading to another, Alain gets a call, he is taken to the hospital, undergoes a surgery and again finds himself with a functional kidney. He can now resume work, take better care of his family and lead a normal life. A life is lost but the quality of life of another person is improved. A story of loss also turns into a story of hope.

Much has been said about the dark side of organ transplantation and organ trade. But what if we focus on the positive aspect of it? What if we focus on the very reason organ transplantation started? To save lives and enhance the quality of life of otherwise dialysis bound patients.

At Fortis Clinic Darné on the 22nd of March 2017, Dr Balbir Verma, Consultant Minimally Invasive Urology & Kidney Transplant, discussed about organ transplantion which, according to him, is a real race against time.

Everyday people in Mauritius are in dire need of organs. People are suffering from kidney failures, heart failures… In this country, Diabetes is also common; this disease affects several other organs. There are demands for organs but the supply is so much less. Right now we can take organs from blood relatives only and it isn’t enough; we cannot even meet a fraction of the demands. Because of this, patients suffer, many of them even lose their lives.

But how do we go about it? According to doctor Verma, it needs to be a collective effort. All the stakeholders needs to be included i.e. the government, the medical community and the general public. With the support of the government through unambiguous laws, there will be less loopholes which can be misused. In unambiguous laws, terms like brain stem death or consent for organ donation will need to be clearly defined and will obviate the future legal hassles.

When it comes to the medical community, different people need to work on different aspects of a case.

We have seen what happens when all the power is concentrated in the hands of one single individual,” says the doctor, “This is why we need to have different teams.

Different teams, each consisting of people who work with integrity and are qualified for the job. A team of independent doctors who confirm the brain stem death, another team made up of sociologists, psychologists, people from the legal fraternity and prominent citizens to take consent from the donor’s family, a retrieval team which only takes and preserves the organs, a transplant surgeon who conducts the surgery and who has no say in who the donor or receiver should be… These different teams work complementarily yet separately and see to it that there are no direct deal between the donor and recipient’s families so that the rights of both the donor and recipient are honoured.

Awareness among the general public is of utmost importance. We could have the best laws, the best medical teams and the best infrastructure but all of that will not amount to much if we, as a nation, are not willing to help save a life by donating our organs. Myths about organ donation needs to be eradicated, awareness and solidarity have to be inculcated. Me, you, one of our friends, one of our relatives… just anyone can be in need of an organ tomorrow. Nearly all of us have the capacity/power to save a life after we die. In other countries, people are provided with donor cards; (cards which specify a person’s pledge to offer his organs for transplantation in case of death).. According to Dr Verma, this is possible in Mauritius:

Mauritius has the potential to become a hub of transplant. We have good basic health care, the transport facilities are good and we also have good communication channels… We need to further work on the infrastructure, set up life support centers… but it is feasible. India has a population of 130 million and cadaveric organ transplant is a reality, so why not here?

During this talk at Fortis Clinic Darné, Dr Balbir asked us to think. And act. Because we all have the ability to save a life. Let us do this together.

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