Although cadaveric organ donations had almost come to a halt during the pandemic, there has been a steady rise in the last few months. While the number of donations are still way below those that happened during the pre-COVID-19 days, the State has already seen 16 cadaveric organ donations so far this year.
This is apart from eight skin donations recorded this year at the State’s only skin bank set up in the government-run Victoria Hospital in March 2016.
Jeevasarthakathe, the State Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation (SOTTO), which is the nodal agency that facilitates cadaver organ donations, recorded 35 donations in 2020, retrieving 167 organs and tissues (including corneas and heart valves), while the skin bank in Victoria Hospital got seven donations. In 2021, 70 cadaveric donations had been recorded retrieving 284 organs and tissues apart from 18 skin donations. In 2019, while 105 cadaveric donations were facilitated through Jeevasarthakathe (wherein 511 organs and tissues were retrieved) the skin bank had seen 40 donations.
Kiran Kumar M, Jeevasarthakathe (SOTTO) Member Secretary who is also the State Joint Director (Medical), said although there has been a steady rise in the number of donations, the number of patients in need of organ transplantation is also increasing.
With as many as 5,032 patients waiting for various organ transplants in Karnataka (including 3,832 for kidneys and 1,059 for liver) as of February 25, the demand-supply gap in organ transplantation in the State is only widening, the doctor said.
“Despite our efforts in creating awareness about organ donation, there were fewer donations during the pandemic. However, after the second wave subsided, donations gradually increased. Health and Medical Education Minister K Sudhakar, who has been tweeting about every donation in the recent past, has evoked good response,” he said.
Dr Kumar said he is in regular touch with heads of major hospitals, including NIMHANS, encouraging them to report brain deaths. “We are working on keeping up the momentum,” he said.
Jeevasarthakathe Chief Transplant Coordinator Lijamol Joseph, said during the pandemic many families were hesitant to donate. “Their main concern was about the procedures that need to be followed before harvesting the organs. However, Kannada actor Sanchari Vijay’s organ donation boosted both cadaveric donation as well as pledges and donations picked up after the second wave,” she said.
With awareness about the concept of skin donation yet to catch up, the State’s first skin bank has had only 138 donations since its inception in March 2016.
Attributing this to stigma and lack of awareness, doctors said of every 10 bereaved families that the staff of the bank reach out to, not more than three agree to donate skin. “They are ready to donate eyes and other organs. But they are not convinced with donating skin as the concept is still new,” K.T. Ramesh, head of the Department of Plastic Surgery in Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute (BMCRI), said.
“Similar to organ donations, there has been a gradual rise in skin donations after the second wave subsided. So far, the donated skin has been used for grafting/biological dressing in over a hundred patients across the State. While the youngest recipient is a four-year-old boy, the oldest is an 85-year-old male,” he said.
Pointing out that skin donation and harvesting is as of now only in Bengaluru, the doctor said: “We are now working on intensifying awareness by visiting educational institutions and old age homes.” In case of death of a dear one, relatives can call 080-26703633/ 8277576147 to donate skin.