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'Hard for families to accept brain death'

mumbai Updated: Sep 14, 2012 01:15 IST
Menaka Rao

Last May, Sharon Gracias, transplant coordinator at Andheri's BSES Hospital was called to Suchak Hospital, Malad, twice on a Sunday to convince a family to donate the organs of their 53-year old mother who was brain-dead after suffering a stroke.

"While the elder son was willing to donate her organs, the younger one was against it. I was called there twice. Finally, they agreed to donate the following day," said Gracias, who has been working as a coordinator since 2009.

The roles of a coordinator, who has to convince families of brain dead patients to donate the patient's organs, and doctors, who retrieve the organs, are not easy.

The counsellors have to be with the family till the body is handed over. This could take up to two days.

"More often than not, we are talking to 30-odd people in a small room, fielding their questions," said Gracias.

Some families get upset when organ donation is suggested. "People do not want to accept that their loved one is brain dead. They even feed the patient prasad from the temple. Sometimes, they get violent," said Anirudha Kulkarni, transplant co-ordinator at Jupiter Hospital, Thane.

Over the years, counsellors have learned how to deal with patients.

"Once, a relative who had agreed to donate organs did not like the way a doctor spoke about the patient in the Intensive Care Unit. She refused to allow the patient's kidneys to be retrieved. Since then, I ensure no one enters the ICU when the doctor is examining the patient," said Gracias.

Counsellors added they they never make promises about how long the transplant would take before the body is handed to the family as it usually takes more than a day.

Doctors involved in retrieved need to immediately start transplant surgery once the patients' families have agreed to donate organs.

"I am usually called for the retrieval of a kidney in the early hours of the morning. Once, I got a call when I was in Bhopal for a urology camp and had to leave for Mumbai immediately," said Dr Mukesh Shah, consulting urologist, Nanavati Hospital, Vile Parle.

While the retrieval of a kidney takes about two hours, retrieving the liver could take about seven hours.