It is not the easiest thing to do, and yet, it has not stopped hundreds of families from doing it. In the last five years, close to 440 families have donated the organs of their loved ones declared brain dead, scripting a new chapter in the lives of others.
And this is where a small group of people make a huge difference – transplant coordinators and grief counsellors.
The role of these men and women transplant coordinators and grief counsellors is pivotal in the cadaver transplant programme.
J. Amalorpavanathan, convenor of the cadaver transplant programme, Tamil Nadu calls them the interface between doctors and the grieving family. “In fact, nothing would move without them. Doctors cannot discuss non-medical issues with family members and coordinators and counsellors are specially trained in various aspects including psychology,” he says.
For S. Vivekanandan, senior liver transplant surgeon, Global Health City, these coordinators are the backbone of the programme.
But their job is by no means easy. “For family members, who want to hear that their loved one is alive and doing well, the fact that he/she is brain dead is difficult to understand, and accept,” says K. Prakash, a transplant coordinator at Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital.
“In such a situation, “We approach them and explain what brain death is. We need to understand their reactions and state of mind. Depending on this, we initiate a conversation on organ donation and how consent could save many lives. While some understand and ask for time, others express unwillingness,” he says.
It is a difficult job but satisfying, says Niveditha Sankaran, service line manager, cadaver transplant programme, Apollo Hospitals. “Bringing new life to four to five persons in one night is not something everybody can do. We share the joy with recipients and their families.”
For R. Harikumar and his family, it was all joy last year, when he won a medal at the World Transplant Games (WTG). His victory offset the great shock the family had suffered when Mr. Harikumar was diagnosed with kidney failure.His surgeon, Rajan Ravichandran, director, MIOT Institute of Nephrology, says the WTG is significant as it proves how complete rehabilitation is possible after a renal transplant. “That message must go out to every one,” he adds.
Most transplant patients find it difficult to find employment after their surgery, even with the government, explains Sunil Shroff, urologist and founder, MOHAN Foundation. That makes transplant games all the more important, to show that a good quality of life is possible post transplant, he says. MOHAN Foundation conducted the first transplant games in Chennai in 2003, and another one is on the cards either this year, or the next, he says.
(Reporting by Serena M. Josephine and Ramya Kannan)