Nineteen-month old Dike Ezeanya, a Nigerian child, is very lucky.
He recently shared headlines with a Mumbai housewife Priya Ahuja after swap liver transplant surgeries saved both their lives. But many aren’t as lucky.
Every year about 80,000 persons need liver transplant while another 70,000-80,000 persons are in need of a heart transplant. While only about 3,500 get kidney transplants, for a heart surgery, there are 30-35 persons waiting at any given time.
Scores of such patients suffer — and die — for a simple reason: shortage of organs for transplants. Hundreds of people die everyday, at hospitals, in road accidents and many others at homes but the list of people waiting for a life saving transplant just increases.
“The reason is lack of awareness about the concept of brain death and about cadaver organ donation. Then is the ‘acceptance’ part. Not all family members agree. Some people say it is ‘not allowed in our religion’, some have misconception 'next birth we would be born without this organ' and such reasons,” said Dr Arti Vij, who heads the Organ Retrieval Banking Organisation (ORBO) at the premises of All India Institutes of Medical Sciences.
Agreed Dr A.K. Seth from Dr B.L. Kapoor Memorial Hospital. “There is a need of a national initiative. Lot of advertisement is necessary,” he said.
Dr Seth, who was earlier with the Research and Referral (R&R) Hospital at Subrato Park, says, “Increased media coverage and teaching the subject as part of school curriculum are ways to improve awareness.”
The doctors also said that it is equally important to sensitise the medical fraternity. “The procedure involves a lot of legal and technical formalities. Equally important is the question of convincing family members of the dead,” he added.
Alok Kumar of Dadhichi Dehdaan Samiti, a social organisation working to spread awareness and facilitate organ donation and whole body donation for more than two decades, said, “Acceptance is more in the upper strata of the society. Of these too, if the family is educated and spiritually inclined, the relatives of the deceased are convinced very fast.”
Only when the awareness increases, can there be more and more organ transplant surgeries, he said.
The concept is slowly catching up as is evident from the fact that the registry at ORBO recently touched 1,000.
“This means at least these many people, who have pledged either their bodies or organs for donation, are convinced and also that their family members are aware about it,” Dr Vij said.
Apart from ORBO, one can contact hospitals like Sir Ganga Ram Hospital and Indraprastha Apollo Hospital to know more about organ donation.
One can also contact Dadhichi Deh Dan Samiti at their helpline number 9810127735 or log on to their website dehdaan.nongov.in