- The More To Give Organ Donation Walkathon was held across six cities
- Thousands of people from all walks of life participated in the Walkathon
- India has one of the lowest organ donation rates in the world
An action packed Sunday morning that had thousands come to walk and spread awareness about organ donation and take the pledge to become organ donors. NDTV-Fortis More To Give Walkathon held on the eve of National Organ Donation Day, was flagged off from the six cities of Chennai, Bengaluru, Gurugram, Mumbai, Jaipur and Mohali. The aim of the Walkathon was to highlight the challenges facing India as it has one of the lowest organ donation rates in the world, which essentially causes death of almost half a million every year because of lack of organs for transplant. Many more are left hanging in the balance on waiting lists for transplants in various hospitals across the country, in what can be an indefinite wait for organs that are a perfect match.
In Chennai, the Walkathon was flagged off at Elliot’s beach, in the presence of athlete Shiny Wilson and actor-director Arun Chidambaram. The latter advocated the reuse of organs to give someone life, just as we reuse plastic and paper. Dr Bala from Fortis was also present at the flag off event in Chennai and lauded Tamil Nadu’s role in being one of India’s best states in terms of organ donation numbers. He said that organ donation could prolong the life of another person and hence, should be considered by all. The Chennai event also witnessed the emotional meeting between families of some donors, and recipients who expressed gratitude, even as the donor families experienced a sense of joy for gifting a new lease of life to someone in need.
Heading west, a sizeable crowd had gathered near Fortis Hospital in Mulund, Mumbai to flag off the Mumbai chapter of the More To Give Walkathon. Actor Gul Panag, a long advocate of organ donation who pledged her organs way back in 2007, was present to flag off the Walkathon. She spoke at length about the need for people to begin thinking about organ donation, as thoughts inevitably translateinto action. Dr Pankaj Maheshwari of Fortis said that one of the biggest myths related to organ donation in India is that religion did not permit organ donation. The doctor assured that the whole organ donation sector was regulated by the government and even faith leaders globally have endorsed organ donation. During the walk, Runjiv Kapur, director of the film 7 Lives, based on a real life incident on organ donation, underlined the importance of educating people about organ donation.
Present at the Walkathon in Gurugram was actor Swara Bhasker, RJ Nitin and artist Paresh Maity. The actor admitted how unaware she herself was about the huge gap between demand for organ for transplant and the lack of availability due to low rate of organ donation.She also said that donating one’s organs was the best possible way of displaying love for a fellow Indian. Artist Paresh Maity said that organ donation was equivalent to ensuring that someone else got to see the beautiful world. Several school children from Delhi Public School, Gurugram participated in the Walkathon and said that they were ready to pledge their organs.
In Jaipur, the district collector Sidharth Mahajan and local MP Ramcharan Vohra felicitated some donor families before flagging off theWalkathon. Mr Vohra said that by donating organs, people should be content about giving a new life to others. Stressing on the importance of how one person can save up to eight lives, Dr Bharti from Fortis said that one person donating his organs meant multiple lives would be saved, which is why it was important for more people to join the call for organ donation to save numerous lives. Volunteers from Mohan Foundation, one of India’s oldest NGOs working in the organ donation sector, joined the Walkathon.
Defying age, 93-year-old hockey legend Balbir Singh Dosanjh requested everyone to understand the importance of organ donation and pledge to donate theirs, at the Walkathon in Mohali. Dr Mukut Minz, Head of Organ Transplants at Fortis, said that though the organ donation structure in India is not perfect, it is gradually improving from what it was a few years ago. Awareness is a continuous process and every now and them, people must be involved in programmes which will sensitise them to pledge their organs for donation. The Walkathon was flagged off by Mr Singh and Dr G.D. Puri, Acting Director of PGIMER, Chandigarh. Also present at the Walkathon were a group of paraplegics, who had come forward to participate in the Walkathon and were blessed by Mr Dosanjh before the crowd set off for the Walkathon.
In Bengaluru, people from all ages came forward to participate in the Walkathon. Former cricketer Syed Kirmani was present on the occasion and said that slowly but surely, awareness among people was increasing about organ donation. The act of leaving something useful behind for people who needed them was the core message of organ donation and Mr Kirmani said that more people were gradually beginning to open up to the idea. Speaking at the flag off, Dr Vivek Jawali, Cardiothoracic & Vascular Surgeon from Fortis Bengaluru said that some countries have adopted the resolution of unless the patient says no, he/she is presumed to be a donor. Though India does not practice that yet, there are various areas where there can be improvement. Deaths due to road accidents, he said, was a major area which could be explored for a possible surge in organ donation numbers if the infrastructure is in place.
With an organ donation rate of just 0.8 per million population and 301 hospitals capable of organ transplant, the More To Give Walkathon aimed to dispel the misconceptions and ignorance about organ donation and highlight the infrastructural bottlenecks that need to be tackled for India to bridge the gap between organ donors and the millions waiting in the dark for transplants to get a new lease of life.