Girija Singh, 79, became the oldest recorded kidney donor in the country after donating his kidney to his daughter-in-law Manju Singh, 49, in January this year.
A Gandhian who has fought two wars after Independence, Singh displays a joie de vivre despite his age. “I wanted to help Manju. She was suffering from end-stage kidney failure and needed a healthy kidney. Now, even after the donation, I feel as fit as ever. I am happy that she too has recovered,” the resident of Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur district said.
4,000 to 5,000 kidney transplantations are done every year
Over one lakh people develop kidney disease every year.
Only “blood-related” donors — mother, father, siblings — and spouses can donate. Extended-family — uncles and aunts — can donate if there are no donors in the immediate family.
Donors should not have obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancers, chronic liver or lung disease.
A donor has to be above 18 years of age. There is no upper age limit for donors, but few donors over 70 are healthy enough to donate.
Doctors say it is rare to find people over 55 years of age, who are healthy enough to donate. “People under 18 cannot donate.The upper age limit for donors, however, is not well defined because when it comes to donation, the physiological age of the body matters more than the chronological age of the person,” says Dr (Col) Akhil Mishra VSM, senior nephrologist at Apollo Hospital, where the surgery was performed.
Simply put, how healthy you are matters more than your age.
Singh’s fitness levels were far better than his son, Om Prakash Singh, 51, a deputy superintendent of police in Gorakhpur. He also suffers from high blood sugar.
“The father had the fitness levels of a person 30 years younger to him. His glomerular filtration rate (GFR), a test that measures kidney function was 90 per cent, certainly over the prescribed limit of above 80 per cent,” says Dr S. N. Mehta, in charge of the surgical team that performed the transplantation.
In Singh’s case, his vital functions also were checked “twice over” and with each result doctors were even more satisfied. Finally, the transplant happened on February 6 this year.
Manju’s kidney functions returned to normal within a week, and Singh is back to his routine with no signs of post-surgical stress.
“I do all the things I used to. I eat a lot of meat and fish, drink plenty of milk and walk 3 kms a day. I feel even fitter than before,” says the retired Subedar from the Indian Army.
His daughter-in-law was diagnosed with kidney disease in 2006. “I had developed persistent fever and my kidneys had shrunk by 80 per cent. Despite being on dialysis for almost two years, my health was deteriorating. I needed transplantation,” she says.
The surgery cost Rs 5.5 lakh, including the 10-day hospital stay for the recipient and a five-day stay for the donor.
“A father-in-law giving an organ to his daughter-in-law is very rare, though I did get a case of a daughter-in-law donating a kidney to her mother-in-law,” says Dr Mishra, who has been practicing medicine for over 30 years. “What makes Singh’s donation memorable is also his age, which proves you are never too old to do a good deed,” he says.