No such thing as goodbye: A teacher’s family shares why they donated her organs after death
In death, there’s the promise of life. The two are uniquely entwined.
It has been six days since Syed Rafath Parveen,40, left this world after a sudden brain haemorrhage. Her heart is healthy and ticking in Bhairav Singh, 56, who has miraculously slipped out of death’s grasp.
Recuperating from a life saving timely heart transplant, the 18 Assam Rifles havildar is happy that he will finally be able to meet his teenage son and daughter eagerly waiting for him in his village in Khatima, Uttarakhand. “Apne bachhon ka chehra dekh paunga...doosra jeevan mila hai (finally, I will get to see the faces of my children...it’s a rebirth for me),” he says.
Singh had been diagnosed with end-stage heart failure. Running from one hospital to another, his wife, Pushpa Devi had lost all hope that Bhairav Singh would survive. The heart transplant brings her ordeal to an end.
“I am forever indebted to the donor’s family…I wish them all the joy in this world,” says Devi, 50.
A final act of compassion
Syed Rafath Parveen, the donor whose heart was transplanted in Bhairav Singh, had returned home from Dubai to spend her short winter vacation with her family in Ghaziabad just two weeks ago. The last movie she had watched before leaving for India was Phir Zindagi, a short film on organ donation. “Only lucky people get the opportunity to give the gift of life to someone while departing,” Rafath had told one of her friends over the phone.
On 24 December, doctors declared Rafath brain dead after she suffered a brain hemorrhage. Even as they dealt with unimaginable shock, her family took no time to decide that they wanted to donate her organs. Her parents felt that this would be the most befitting tribute to the person they say she was – compassionate, courageous, committed to the cause of others.
Syed Rafath Parveen taught primary school students in DPS Mathura Road for 20 years. Last year, took up a teaching job in Delhi Private School, Dubai. As she returned home, Rafath wanted to spend every bit of her winter holidays with her family – husband, two sons and her parents in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh.
“She was jovial and chirpy as always. Her husband and elder son went to receive her at the airport. We were so happy that she was back. We could have never imagined that we were going to lose her in a few days,” says her father, Syed Ahmad AliShah.
The very next day of her arrival, Rafath had gone out with her friends. “She hung out with us, had noodles from a road side stall, went to the salon…she wanted to live every moment to the fullest. Every time we would say, let’s go home, she would reply, “five minutes more, please”. May be she wanted to grasp every bit of life that remained,” says Maninder Jit Kaur, her friend of 20 years.
Kaur recalls how Rafath would always find ways to bring joy in the lives of other people. “She used to stay back in the school to teach underprivileged children. She had so many plans…she wanted to register an NGO for children. She often pondered over the purpose of life. She would have endless discussions on the purpose of human life. While she leaves so much unfinished, even in her death, she managed to do something so beautiful,” says the 52-year-old Kaur who teaches primary school students in DPS Mathura Road.
It started with a headache that grew worse. A CT scan of Rafath’s brain was conducted the next day that detected an abnormality. She was taken to Max Super Speciality Hospital, Vaishali. Despite sustained efforts by a multidisciplinary team of doctors, Rafath could not be saved. The doctors announced that she was brain dead. She had suffered subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) caused by intracranial aneurysm rupture (bleeding caused due to dilated blood vessels in the brain).
Kindness…the thing that survives death
Even in the face of grief, Rafath’s family requested the doctors to facilitate donation of her organs. “It could not have been any other way for her… she always stood out from others, always wanted to do something worthwhile,” says her mother, Sirajunnisa Begum, 60.
Rafath’s father believes that his daughter would be glad with this decision, wherever she is. “This is the best decision we could have taken. It gives some solace…the fact that my daughter could save four lives even in her death. It makes me proud of her,” says Alishah, vice president, Andhra Education Society.
Five years ago, Alishah himself had pledged to donate his organs after his death. The 67- year-old says that his faith teaches him to practice selfless compassion for all, and in this decision, he only stayed true to this learning. “We believe that there can be no bigger act of compassion than this for a human being. My daughter is indeed lucky to get an opportunity to give the gift of life to four people. May Allah grant her the highest place in jannat,” says Alishah who retired as assistant general manager, Kendriya Bhandar.
Rafath’s husband, Shaikh Salim Durrani is also trying to find relief in the fact that his childhood sweetheart and life partner of 21 years could give the gift of life to others. Durrani, 50, works as manager, operations in a Noida based digital firm.
The couple had a love marriage. Their families knew each other for a long time. Rafath and Durrani used to play together as children. Soon, Raffath’s family left for Libya, where she finished her schooling. They returned to India when Raffath was 16. The childhood buddies met once again and the soft-spoken, introverted Durrani fell in love with the spirited, bubbly girl. After a courtship of five years, they married. The couple had two sons, Aman, 18 and Arsh, 11.
Professional commitments often forced the couple to live apart. For the last one year, Rafath had been living in Dubai to work. So naturally, her husband and sons wanted to spend as much time with her as possible when she returned for winter holidays.
But little did one know that death was going to snatch her away so cruelly. Durrani says that organ donation was the only way to for him to ensure that his wife lives on. “We had reached a point where there was no question of resurrection. Brain death is irreversible. I wanted my wife to be alive, to be in this world in some or the other way, so I gave my consent,” he says.
Dr Gaurav Aggarwal, VP-Operations, Max Hospital, Vaishali, says the family has set a truly beautiful example of humanity with this noble deed. “Religious beliefs pose the biggest hurdle to organ transplants in India. It’s rare for people to come ahead and donate the organs of their deceased loved ones. This family is an inspiration for all,” he says.
Dr Aggarwal says that the number of people suffering from end stage diseases is rising steady. Cadaveric transplants can be the only way to save their live, and thus more and more people should donate the organs of loved ones who pass away due to sudden death. “Live transplants are rare as it is tough to find willing donors. Cadavers (deceased donors) can be an important source of organ transplantations, especially in a post Covid 19 world, where many who have recovered from the virus might also need lung transplants,” says Dr Aggarwal.
The doctor urges religious leaders and the recipients of cadaver donations to come ahead and encourage people to donate the organs of their deceased relatives, just like Rafath’s family. “You will be doing the biggest service to mankind,” he says.
Apart from her heart, Rafath’s kidney was transplanted in a 37-year-old female patient from Jharkhand who was on dialysis for the last four years. Rafath’s liver was transplanted in a terminally ill 59-year-old female patient from Delhi, a journalist who works in the PMO. Rafath’s second kidney was transported to Artemis Hospital, Gurgaon.
Some are indeed born to give.
Every year, nearly 500,000 people die in India because of non-availability of organs, 200,000 people die due to liver disease, and 50,000 people die due to heart disease. Out of the 150,000 people awaiting a kidney transplant, only 5,000 of them find a donor, says a survey. If you wish to pledge to donate your organs, log on to www.notto.gov.in to know more.