WAITING IN THE DARK
As we launch into a promising second season, the Greek statesman Pericles’ astonishingly apt words come to mind. ‘‘What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.’’
If we could see a physical queue of patients in India waiting for organs, we would realise the magnitude of the problem, the darkness and loneliness, the anxiety and fear that surround the lives of lakhs. Battling end-stage organ failure, the only hope for these patients is a donor, who is a match.
An average of five lakh Indians die every year, hoping and praying. Even though they know the shortfall of organs is acute, they have no option. They continue to wait in the dark.
In response to the crisis, NDTV and Fortis Healthcare took up the issue last year to to mobilise the nation for the cause.
India has the dual ignominy of maximum number of road accident-related deaths in the world but one of the lowest organ donation rates. There are hundreds of individuals with brain death in intensive care units, but lack of awareness, processes and protocol means their organs will never be donated. In the absence of a robust programme, only a few affluent and fortunate patients find organs, mostly from living donors. Retrieving organs from living donors is not ideal. It excludes heart, lung, intestine and pancreas transplantation, but also risks the life of a healthy donor, and may lend itself to criminal attempts to procure organs.
In a nation of over a billion people, there’s not even one donor in a million. Less than 5,000 kidney transplants are carried out annually against an estimated requirement of over 50,000. Only 1,000 liver transplants are performed every year, while 2 lakh Indians die of end-stage liver diseases, mostly related to preventable causes like Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. As for heart, the annual requirement is estimated to be around 50,000.
Altruism comes easily to us as a nation. What is lacking is a process. The availability of medical expertise, infrastructure and awareness about organ donation can increase the numbers of deceased donations significantly.
If we officially pledge our organs, each of us, on passing, can save up to 8 lives by way of organ donation. Even in death, we can give life to those waiting in the ‘dark’.