My brother decided he will donate his kidney, but both organ donation and transplant are not easy processes. A number of procedural requirements are involved in it.
There are two types of transplant – live donor and cadaver. Cadaver transplant involves the organ of the person who is medically brain dead and doesn’t have a chance of recovering. One needs to register for the cadaver transplant, and it takes a number of years for your turn to come.
Mine was a live donor transplant. For that, the kidneys of the donor and the recipient need to match. After a match is established, a thorough examination is conducted for the donor to check if he is physically, medically and mentally capable of kidney donation and the life afterwards. The donor also goes under a kidney removal surgery so a number of tests are performed on the donor and recipient. My brother underwent counselling sessions at my hospital where all sorts of scenarios were discussed with him. He could connect with other donors and discuss life after organ donation.
Once the medical checks are done for the donor, the recipient needs to be checked. In a live donor transplant, the recipient needs to be in good health. Apart from his kidney condition, ideally there should be no other health issues.
In my case, since I had been very ill and immobile, doctors were not keen on doing the transplant right away. My overall health was in pretty bad shape. I was very weak; I was constantly falling sick and I was not able to walk. The dialysis had an impact on my cardiac performance. My heart function was down to 30%. It is a common side effect of dialysis on the kidney patient. My TB medication was going on. TB medication needs to be taken for year and one cannot undergo a transplant being on TB medication. It was fine with me, as I knew undergoing a transplant wouldn’t be possible for my body. We waited for the things to improve.
It was around October 2018 that my doctors and I were confident that I could undergo a transplant, so we started the legal procedure. There is a complicated legal procedure involved. First and foremost, only a blood relative can donate a kidney. We had to establish a blood relationship by providing birth certificates and pictures. Apart from that, there is a lot of legal paperwork that needs to be done.
Hats off to my brother, who did everything. All the paperwork, legal proceedings and medical tests – he managed everything single handedly. We didn’t have to look into anything. When he was at the lawyer’s office doing all the paperwork, one of the employees casually asked him “Who is the donor sir?” My brother told him “I’m the donor.” The employee was quite amused that being a donor, he was doing all the formalities himself. He said “Normally, the recipients side do everything.” My brother coolly said, “She is my sister, so I am the recipient side too!”
Once the paperwork is done, the recipient and the donor along with their spouses and immediate family have to appear in front of the government panel in a government hospital. The interview is recorded on camera. The panel asks a number of questions to the donor and recipient separately. They do this to check if the answers are matching and if the organ donation is genuine or a commercial transaction. They also speak to the spouse of the donor and ask for their consent on camera.
When we reached hospital for the interview, I did not expect the waiting room would have inmates from a jail nearby with handcuffs on. It was a different environment all together. The interview itself was quite a tense and unnerving experience. The panel wasn’t very friendly and unsympathetic. One of the questions they asked me was “Why do you want to do this procedure? If it fails, your brother will lose his good kidney!” I had no answer to that and afterwards, I had anxiety about undergoing the transplant.
Another important question they asked Dinesh and I was about money. Kidney disease is an expensive affair and the transplant even more. The transplant surgery itself costs a bomb, and even after surgery one has to take expensive medicines for the rest of their lives. The medicines are not as expensive as dialysis, but it is still a considerable expense. On an average a kidney transplant costs between 15 to 20 lakhs. By the grace of God, we didn’t have money issues and we received legal consent.
The transplant needs to be performed within three months from the date of receipt of legal consent, which meant we had time till the end of February. So, we decided on the 5th January as the transplant date. I started counting the days, actually the number of days, I still needed to go for dialysis!