The Need for Eye, Blood and Organ Donation in india

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World Sikh News endorses this appeal by celebrated poet and author in multiple languages to the general public to know more about the need and facts about eye and organ donation. The author through his writings and activism has been propagating this for long. This is the first of a 2-article series. The second one carries the Sikh viewpoint on organ donation.

Saving lives through organ donation is still a field which is not fully understood despite the advantage to the teeming millions who need it. Humankind has to do much more in this area to provide eye-sight and life to those in dire straits.  A beginning has been made but more more needs to be done.

Here is a summary of the reasons why donation of eyes and other vital organs can make a vast difference in the Indian subcontinent.

Eye Donation –a Factsheet

  1. India has the largest number of blind people in the world. Wrong beliefs and superstitions are responsible for indifference towards eye donation.
  2. Eye removal does not delay the funeral since the entire procedure takes only 20-30 minutes.
  3. Eye donation gives sight to two blind persons by Corneal Graft, because in our country one blind person is given one eye at a time due to acute shortage.  This enables you to continue to be part of this world even after death.
  4. After death every human being of any age anyone from the age of one can donate. There is no age-limit for donating the eye.  
  5. Everyone can donate eyes, even if blind by birth, even if wearing glasses, even if one has undergone an eye operation or even if one has some eye disease. It should be left to the medical fraternity to make an assessment of each individual case.  
  6. In case of death by burns, leprosy, cancer, dog bite, snake bite, jaundice, HIV AIDS and drowning, eyes are not useful for transplantation.
  7. The cornea of the eye has to be removed within 6 hours of the person after death. So, upon death, no time should be lost in informing the nearest Eye Hospital or Eye Bank of the area concerned.
  8. Upon death, switch-off fans (the air conditioner can be kept on) and close the eyelids. Place  wet cotton or a wet cloth over the eyes.  It will keep the eyeballs moist.  Raise the head with a pillow.
  9. The body need not be taken to the Eye Hospital or Eye Bank. On informing the Eye Hospital or Eye Bank, the doctors team will come to the spot at their own cost.
  10. The cornea is the clear circular transparent portion at the front of the eyeball. This is taken out carefully, without leaving any scar or disfiguring the face and keeping the eyeballs intact. It takes only 10-15 minutes for this process.
  11. A 10 c.c.  blood sample is collected from the donor’s dead body for testing.
  12. Eye Banks are non-profit service organisations. The collected cornea is examined, preserved and used for transplantation within 72 hours according to the waiting list. So you need not doubt about their integrity and the rightful use of your donation.
  13. Simply the act of your pledging may not ensure that your wish will be fulfilled. It is also not necessary for the donor to register his/her pledge earlier for eye donation during his life. Additionally, this is not likely to be the first thing to strike the bereaved family. Therefore education and instruction prior to death are necessary. 
  14. In addition to letting your relatives know, you should also tell your friends, spiritual leaders, and your attorney (if you have one). This will help ensure that there are no uncertainties about your decision.
  15. Do something now itself to make sure that when the time comes, your eyes will actually be donated. For this sacred cause discuss eye donation with your family members and convince them. They must take the responsibility to inform immediately to the Eye Hospital/Eye Bank after death. Your mere wish will be immaterial, unless your family members make up their mind for donation and act accordingly. 
  16. In the unlikely event that your donation cannot be used for transplants (due to medical complications), with your family’s consent, your donation can still be used for medical education and transplant research.

  Blood Donation -A Factsheet

  1. Blood is the elixir of life. It is not only life, but also saves and gives life to others. It is needed for those who have lost blood due to accidents, diseases or surgery.
  2. Blood donation is nothing but a sacred service and a symbol of humanity. Any healthy man or woman can donate regularly after every 12 weeks without any loss of their body requirement.
  3. Blood donation is a painless process, which is completed within few minutes.
  4. Human body maintains its level of blood. During blood donation only 350 c.c. of blood is taken, which is replenished in the body in a very short time. The donor will not feel any loss or weakness even after five Minutes.
  5. Voluntary Blood Donors are given Donors Cards and Certificates Of Appreciation. They will also get blood on priority, when they need it for themselves or for their nearest kin.  
  6. Consider donating blood and marrow while you’re still living. These donations help people in rejuvenate their life.

Kidney Donation -A Factsheet
Generally people have two kidneys and a person can comfortably live with one kidney. The kidneys perform crucial functions that affect all parts of the body. Various diseases can affect kidney function. Kidney damage, apart from other reasons is also a side effect of medication, particularly painkillers taken for headache backache, joint pains etc.  You could donate one kidney to your loved ones who are in need and could do a good before your end…. and live even after life.

On 13 January 2016, twin-hand transplant was conducted at Kochi, Kerala, on an Army captain Abdul Rahim, 30 of Afghanistan, who had lost both hands during demining operations three years ago. He goes back to Afghanistan with Indian hands. Thank God and the medical fraternity and of course the courageous family for their donation.

On 30 September 2009, 55 year-old Fr. Davis Chiramel went one step ahead of just preaching love… he acted it… he gave one out of the two kidneys he had… to a complete stranger Hindu, at Kochi, Kerala. He has motivated many a public luminary to contribute to the cause of organ donation in India. K J Yesudas, noted playback singer is now an Ambassador of the Kidney Foundation of India. This set off a chain reaction in the society with contributions pouring in plenty for transplants and people pledging donation in thousands.

So far, 15 priests and six nuns have donated kidneys to non-related recipients through the organ donation network Kidney Federation of India.

Organ Donation of Brain Dead 

  1. When we see an active pulse, a warm body and a beating heart, families think there is still a possibility of the patient coming back to life.  It is difficult for the attendants to accept brain death.  Common perception is that a person dies only when the heartbeat stops. In fact complete and irreversible loss of all brain functions is essential for a person to be declared clinically and legally dead, and is to be certified by doctor.
  2. In case of accident, brainstem death is responsible for brain death.  Such patients do not regain consciousness, although their heart continues to beat and blood circulation is maintained. For all other purposes they are clinically dead.  The moment their breathing support machine is withdrawn, they die. The organs of such brain dead person i.e., Cadaveric Donor, can be donated for transplantation to several needy persons.  The organs can be preserved only for a few hours before they are transplanted to the recipients free of cost. The Transplantation Of Human Organs Amendment Act 2011, has given a big push to organ donation.  The donors need not pay anything, only the recipients have to pay the hospital charges.  The sale and purchase of organs is strictly prohibited and an offense attracting jail sentence.
  3. Convince the family members to donate your organs and tissues for saving the lives of other individuals who are facing imminent death.  Incisions to remove organs are made at places where clothing covers the body.  It does not cause any disfigurement and does not interfere in any way with the customary funeral. The hospital in which the donor is under treatment is the proper agency to guide.
  4. Presently, almost 37 different organs and tissues can be harvested including the most important ones. Cornea, Blood, Skin, Bone, Bone marrow, Liver, Kidneys, Heart, Lungs, Pancreas, Intestines, Cartilages and many other parts are being transplanted. Even one such donation can help more than 40 needy patients and save their lives.

For example, on 13th January 2016, twin-hand transplant was conducted at Kochi, Kerala, on an Army captain Abdul Rahim, 30 of Afghanistan, who had lost both hands during de-mining operations three years ago. He goes back to Afghanistan with Indian hands. He had defused about 2,000 mines in his career.

The credit for the transplant should equally go to the doctors and the family who graciously agreed to donate his limbs. Abdul Rahim had approached the hospital four months back, at the end of a search for hand transplant in many other countries. His picture is a tribute to humanity and the medical fraternity.

Body Donation  -A Factsheet
In medical colleges, students require dead bodies for dissection to study the human anatomy.  Only a very few unclaimed dead bodies are available for them, as body donors are very rare.  So students in a large group work on one body due to the scarcity. People should come forward to donate their dead body to the nearest Medical College for the purpose of intensive learning of the students.  For such donation, the Head of the Anatomy Department of the nearest Medical College should be contacted during life and a declaration to this effect should be submitted to avoid any controversies by their relatives later on, apart from advising their own family members.  Arrangements should be made to hand over the dead body to the same Medical College.

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Receiving an organ donation is easy, donating is also easy. Make up your mind and take the first next step of signing a pledge. It is an opportunity to live even after death. Don’t lose the chance.

Capt. Abdul Rahim of Afghanistan is seen with dark colored Indian hands greeting the donor’s wife.
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