After Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat blotted its copybook with bloody communal clashes in 2002, even well-heeled and high-brow Hindus and Muslims no longer live as hail-fellow-well-met neighbors.
But when an unlettered Hindu family in the land of Mahatma Gandhi gave a new lease of life the other day to a Muslim man on the death bed, the noble gesture must have surely come as a slap in the face of communalists on both sides.
Thanks to the efforts of Donate Life, an NGO working for organ donations, the heart of a 21-year-old driver, brain dead after a road accident, was earlier this month transplanted into the body of a 32-year-old madrassa teacher who had been fighting for life for the past eight months.
On July 12, when Amit Halpati, son of farm laborers living in a village in Navsari district in south Gujarat, decided to go for a jolly ride with a friend on the latter’s motorcycle, little did he realize that he had driven a nail in his coffin. Minutes after they left their hamlet, the bike skidded and Halpati sustained serious head injuries while his pal was only slightly hurt.
He was rushed to a public hospital in nearby Surat where doctors later declared him brain dead sending shockwaves down the spine of his kinsmen. In no time, volunteers of Donate Life reached out to the grieving family members and succeeded in convincing them how Halpati’s organs could save the life of seven run-down people on their last legs.
While his two kidneys, two eyes, liver and pancreas were donated to different needy patients, the heart had to be removed and safely taken to a private hospital in Ahmedabad where Sohail Vora of Anand in central Gujarat, whose heart was on the blink, was awaiting a donor since November, 2016.
With the help of policemen, airport staff, local doctors, a Donate Life team created a ‘green corridor’ by stopping the traffic and allowing free and continuous passage to the ambulance carrying the heart and taking it to Ahmedabad by a chartered aircraft.
“The distance of 277 km from the Surat civil hospital to the private hospital in Ahmedabad was covered in 85 minutes flat and the five-hour heart transplant surgery was immediately performed on Sohail,” said Nilesh Mandlewala, founder and president of Donate Life which has so far procured 494 organs to bring smiles on the faces of as many patients.
Apart from Sohail, two more Muslim heart patients have benefited from Mandlewala’s benevolent free-of-cost organ donation project in the recent past.
Earlier this year, the heart of a 43-year-old Surat-based brain dead Hindu teacher, Parimal Bhagat, was airlifted to Chennai’s Fortis Malar Hospital and transplanted into 14-year-old Khadija Obidallah of United Arab Emirates.
Last year, the family of 17-year-old Surat road mishap victim Dishank Jariwala donated his heart to 43-year-old Alwar (Rajasthan) resident Moinuddin Khan who was hoping against hope for his survival.
Mandlewala, who bagged the prestigious Pride of Gujarat award recently, told Al Arabiya that India faced an acute shortage of donors, resulting in loss of lives, adding that while 50,000 patients required heart transplants every year, only 350 had been conducted in the past 24 years.
“Some 2 million people are suffering from kidney failure in India and around 200,000 such patients are added every year. The situation regarding those suffering from failure of liver, pancreas, heart, eyes, etc. is no better”, laments Rakesh Jain, secretary of Donate Life which acts as a link between the donor and the recipient.
In India, Tamil Nadu tops in organ donations, and globally, Spain has the highest organ donation rate of 34 donors per million compared to 25 donors in the United States, but India has a shameful record of just 0.5 donor per million.
Indeed, the organ donation process in India is administered by the National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organization but heath experts say that state- and district-level bodies, which have failed to manage organ donation, need to be strengthened and critical care doctors have to be proactive about identifying brain death cases.
About 10,000 brain deaths take place in Delhi every year but even 1,000 of these potential donors are not harnessed. Under the circumstances, Donate Life has an enviable record of persuading 494 organ donors and has decided to felicitate on August 2 the 32 families who have donated organs of their dear ones in the past one year.
“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up,” says Mandlewala, a humble businessman who has dedicated his life to his noble mission after witnessing how his father had to suffer due to kidney failure.