Call it a passion for work or determination to save precious lives, three transplant coordinators at the PGIMER — despite receiving criticism, allegations, or sometimes abuses — have been convincing the families of brain-dead patients about the importance of organ donation for the past few years.
In 2015, the families of 26 brain dead patients were counselled to save lives by donating organs. As a result, the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) achieved the highest rate (24.64) of organ donation per million in the country. This year, seven brain-dead organ donors have impacted nearly 30 lives so far.
The number is increasing steadily at the PGIMER. Behind the success story of the PGI that is leaving a mark at the national level, there is hours of strenuous work put in by these transplant coordinators, Ramnadeep Kaur, Navdeep Bansal and Rajinder Kaur. Their role starts the moment a doctor declares a patient ‘brain dead’.
“It is not an easy task to explain the concept of ‘brain death’ to a family for whom their loved one is still breathing. It becomes more difficult if a patient is young,” says Ramandeep Kaur, who is associated with the PGIMER since 2008. She had convinced nearly 15 families in 2015; and two this year to date.
“I think about those people whose lives can be saved if that one brain dead patient donates organs. Every time, I first think about the importance of my job and then move forward to counsel the family,” says Navdeep Bansal, who managed to convince nearly 13 families last year and four to date.
The first counselling session takes minimum 40 minutes, he added.
The ventilation support is stopped for a few seconds to show the patient is only breathing because of the support system, he is pinched and the light is flashed on his eyes to show he is not responding to pain or light.
If the family accepts it, the coordinator gives some time to them to console before talking about the organ donation.
“After around two hours, I examine the facial expressions of the main decision maker and approach him/her accordingly. Once educated about the organ donation, he/she is asked whether the family is willing to donate eyes of their loved one,” says Ramandeep.
More than 90% people say no for the first time, she added.
“I ask them again if they have seen any blind person, and how, by donating the eyes of the patient, they could give vision to someone,” she says.
The second session usually goes for around 40 minutes. If they agree to donate eyes, half the job is done, says Amandeep, adding that over 50% of those who agree to donate eyes would agree to donate other organs as well.
The coordinators say their job is not as easy as it seems. Most times, the coordinators face the anger of family members. At times, they turn aggressive, hurl abuses, and accuse the transplant coordinators of selling organs, or favouring rich recipients, they add.
Rajinder Kaur says many times the relatives of a patient provoke the main decision maker not to donate organs.
“Kitne paison mein bech rahe ho organs ko (for how much are you selling the organ) … or Kis amir ko de rahe ho organs (you must be selling the organ to some rich patient) are some common allegations that the coordinators have to bear every time they counsel someone,” says Ramandeep Kaur.
“We try to convince them saying their loved ones will live even after the death, and it works,” Navdeep said.
“The PGIMER has successfully created a team, including surgeons, physicians and transplant coordinators, which has been promoting organ donation. The PGI transplant coordinators have been doing an amazing job, and are working beyond the hours of duty for the cause,” said Dr AK Gupta, medical superintendent, PGIMER.