Indian priest's altruism starts chain of kidney donation

Under the newly-set up kidney federation, a family member of a patient who receives a kidney ought to offer an organ in return

An Indian who donated his kidney to help a dying patient and started the Kidney Federation in the country is calling upon non-resident Indians to join a movement to sign up as volunteers for posthumous organ donation.

About 100,000 people die every year in India due to non-availability of organs, whereas the number of available donors in the country today stands at just 1 per cent of what is required.
Father Davis Chirammal a catholic priest from the South Indian state of Kerala donated his kidney to set an example and started the foundation in order to motivate more people to do so. “One man named Gopinath who was suffering from kidney related illness had attempted suicide. His friends then joined hands and decided to collect money for his treatment and had invited me for the fund raising programme. Although Rs12 lakh (Dh79,500) was collected, as on November 28, 2012, he still could not find a donor. That is when I intervened and said I would donate one of my kidneys,” says Fr Chirammal.
According to him all that he did was his duty and obligation to his fellow human being. “I have not done anything. When all roads ahead of Gopinath was closed, I decided that I could be the way for him to come to life. He is a Hindu but his religion was never a consideration. It was my duty and obligation towards a fellow human being,” he added.
The Kidney Federation of India was established on September 13, 2009, when he was operated upon. Since then he has been campaigning for the cause of organ donation.
According to him there is a great need for organs in India. “The number of kidney patients alone in India is increasing. People are very afraid to donate a kidney. Even adults hesitate to donate their kidney to save their parents. However, thanks to increasing awareness people are coming forward to donate organs. But there are so many occasions when the group does not match. Therefore, we have started a cross donation system,” he explains. The system would require that a family member of the patient who receives a kidney is bound to offer a kidney in return to another patient who is in need, thereby creating a chain.
Inspired by the priest, one of Kerala’s top industrialists Kochouseph Chittilapally, who owns the voltage stabilizer brand V-Guard and the Chittilapally Jewellery group voluntarily donated his kidney to a patient in need. According to Fr Chirammal, today there are more such people coming forward to be donors.
Meanwhile, he has named the posthumous organ donation campaign as Mruta Sanjeevini. “When a volunteer signs up as a donor, we can retrieve most of his body organs such as kidney, heart, liver, pancreas, bone, bone marrow and even his or her skin and transplant it to a person in need.
That is why we have named the programme as Mruta Sanjeevini which means eternal life. Your body parts will continue to remain the source of life in this world, in other people’s bodies,” he says.
“After you die these organs just go a waste. Instead why cannot we donate it to fellow human beings who are in desperate need of these organs and fighting a battle between life and death. Religion propagates love and there is no religion that would be against this,” he argues.
He recently completed a campaign across Kerala to educate people and sign up volunteers for posthumous organ donation. According to him posthumous organ donation is more common in the West, while it is yet to take off in most of developing countries and emerging markets.
He has so far managed to obtain the consent of almost 350,000 people who have dedicated all their organs after their death. He started the initiative from his own village, Pootharakkal, in Thrissur district where he is a priest. “Today Pootharakkal has become the only village in the world where everyone has signed up for organ donation. The village has already entered the Limca Book of Records (a book of world records currently published by Coca Cola in India). The idea is to sign up as many people from Kerala where there are too many patients with Kidney related illnesses as well,” says Fr Chirammal.
According to him no campaign in Kerala is successful unless the NRI Keralites are targeted. “There are so many of them living in the Gulf and the Middle East. Our idea is to raise awareness among them,” he added. Following his trip to the UAE, he also plans to visit Kuwait and Qatar during the coming months.
Also, most of the board members of the specialty hospital that is built in Thrissur in Kerala are from the UAE and the Gulf. The hospital is equipped with state of the art equipment and aims to provide dialysis to kidney patients at a very nominal cost. An attempt is also being made to pressurize the Indian government to create necessary infrastructure at the zonal level with capable doctors who can retrieve organs from a dead body and those who can transplant them to a patient in need.
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