Giving is Living – Organ Donation

“Annadanam Samam Danam Trilokeshu Na Vidhathe”.

organ_donation_portrait_thumbThese are verses from the Vedas, which roughly translate to “Annadanam is supreme and superior to any other form of charity”. Food is the basic requirement for all humans. Hence Annadanam is considered supreme among all gifts of charity as food gives life, longevity, light and energy. For a human being to live a healthy life, all organs should function normally. Even if one organ doesn’t work that person can’t lead a happy life irrespective of how much wealth the person has accrued. Hence people should realize that organ donation is as important as other Danas. I personally feel that donating organs is a higher form of charity than giving food or clothes and reflects nobility of thought. Most people are aware of eye donation but are still unaware of organ donation.

I was quite aware of the concept of organ donation but had not given it serious consideration until I was recently touched by an experience that involved someone very close to me.

The noble person is none other than my beloved sister who was a 52 year old multi-faceted woman and a senior vice president of a large company who lived a modest life. She helped many financially needy people, supported many charities and was a board member of a home for the disabled.One morning, we received a call from India that my sister was admitted in the hospital with severe headache. In the evening we came to know that she was diagnosed with subarachnoid aneurysm (brain hemorrhage). We were shocked to learn about this news. We couldn’t believe the fact and before we could fully digest this information, she had undergone a surgery and was on her way to recovery. She had no other side effects and doctors wanted to discharge her from the hospital. We were relieved by the news.

Just two days before her discharge, we got another call from India that she was moved to the ICU with an Intraventricular Hemorrhage. She was on ventilators and after a series of tests they declared her as brain dead. Everything happened in a matter of 15 days. We were in shock and were unable to digest the fact that she was not with us anymore. In past conversations with our family, she expressed her interest in donating her organs. To respect her wishes, the family took a decision to donate her organs and consulted MOHAN (Multi Organ Harvesting Aid Network) Foundation for the donation of her organs. Six of her organs were donated to six different people.

Although she left all of us in sorrow, we are proud of the way she was selfless in life and death and positively impacted the life of six organ recipients.Although one can donate some organs while alive, it is more often done upon death. In order for a person to become an organ donor after death, blood and oxygen must flow through the organs until the time of recovery to ensure viability. This requires that a person die under circumstances that have resulted in an irreparable neurological injury, usually from massive trauma to the brain such as aneurysm, stroke or automobile accident.

My sister died under these circumstances and was able to donate her organs successfully. Most of the people in India are not aware of organ donation. Amongst thosewho have heard about it, many don’t understand the process well or are held back by beliefs, faith or fear of scams. One needs to realize that there are many people on wait list who need an organ transplant to survive. One needs to look at the large numbers on the wait list for donations and the few available donors to understand the magnitude of the problem. It is difficult to obtain accurate organ donation numbers in India.

Therefore, I am providing statistics for the US obtained on March 14, 2012 from the US Department of Health and Human Services (http://organdonor.gov). There are 113,507 people waiting for an organ and 18 people die each day waiting for an organ. Approximately 14,100 people donated organs in 2011 and there are close to 100 million Americans who have signed up to be organ donors. Although there is significant room for improvement in the donor sign up rate, it is much better than countries like India where the awareness about organ donation is much lower.I urge all the readers to not be led astray by myth and misunderstanding on this topic. Learn, educate and understand what is involved and make informed decisions. There are many people waiting for an organ donation. Giving is Living!

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