Tarun Gupta's physical condition hardly permits him to run, but he will be participating in the Mumbai marathon on Sunday. Such a desperate attempt to highlight his plight may just shorten his wait for a kidney.
Gupta, suffering from renal failure, has been waiting for a kidney for over two years with the Zonal Transplantation Co-ordination Committee (ZTCC) of Maharashtra. While many will use the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon as a means of product and brand promotion, the former state-level table tennis champion will run to urge people to pledge their organs.
With little awareness regarding organ donation among the general public, and consequent lack of sensitivity towards the issue, kidneys are hard to come by.
Kidneys are transplant-ready only if sourced from a brain-dead person.
But the number of kidney donations is abysmally low and, worse, falling.
“My brother was ready to donate his kidney but I do not want to make him ill,” Gupta says. “If he is fit, at least he can look after my father after me.”
According to ZTCC president Vatsala Trivedi, such poor response to cadaver organ donation is due mainly to lack of awareness among doctors and relatives of patients.
“After a doctor declares a person brain-dead, the relatives can be counselled regarding donation,” she says. “But as doctors are not sensitive enough, they fail to introduce the subject properly.”
For people like Gupta, an employee of the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF), the wait often becomes eternal.
“I understand there are many in the queue before me,” he says. “But I may not have that much time with the rate of donations being so poor.”
Though Gupta’s employers have supported and helped him all along, the one treatment he needs is not anywhere in sight.
“People still cling to superstitions. Many patients succumb during the wait for a kidney,” Trivedi says. “By the time we get a donation and contact a patient, we learn that he is dead.”
Given the situation, Gupta is willing to go the extra mile to stay alive, to leave no stone unturned in his mission. It is risky, but he is determined.
“I see no opportunity otherwise,” he says. “Many like me will continue to suffer until society realises how painful it is to court death every moment.”
On Sunday, Trivedi will accompany Gupta in his marathon effort. Gupta hopes that as he runs, he will be able to move the people sitting on the fence and watching.