When we stepped into the tiny house located in R Nagar in Bangalore, we were welcomed by a young girl. All of 8 years, with shy, sparkling eyes reflecting not only childhood, but which also held the depths of someone who had seen too much at her young age- Reema, her younger brother Ankit- a young boy filled with mischief which can only be found in boy at the age of 6, and Rohini, their mother- a wonderful and charming erstwhile home maker, now a school teacher. What we could see, through strangers’ eyes- A happy family content with living a simple life. With 2 beautiful children- Reema and Ankit,and a loving, supportive wife,Rohini, Anupam Singh could not have asked for more. [Names changed upon request].
In 2007, like most Bengalureans today, Anupam fell victim to a severe allergy attack and had to be medicated with anti-biotics for an extensive period of 4 years. The result? He suffered from a high blood pressure problem and further tests including an abdomen scan revealed that both his kidneys had been damaged beyond repair. He was referred to a larger, more well known hospital [name withheld on request] for the dialysis process, by the doctors at the company hospital.
Life had taken a tragic turn for this small family of four, with the main bread-winner no longer being able to work to support them. Anupam had to undergo dialysis until a suitable donor of a kidney was found.
The only silver lining to Anupam and Rohini’s troubles was the fact that since Anupam worked for a Public sector company, his medical expenses were being covered by his employer. But that did not solve his problem of losing out on a steady income since he could no longer work. Someone once said, ‘Friends are the family that God forgot to give us’. This was true since Anupam’s colleagues stepped in to and contributed a fixed sum per month which sustained the family in distress.
The only permanent solution to Anupam’s condition was to get a kidney transplant surgery. The questions were, From where would this kidney be sourced, who would donate and what were the ensuing costs involved? In India, the law states that only immediate family and spouses can be sourced as live donors for organ transplants.
But despite being the youngest of 4 siblings, no one came forward to even test whether his/her blood group would match Anupam’s. The reasons ranging from a B.P problem to having family dependencies, Anupam’s siblings took several steps back. Donation was a far thought. Family not volunteering to save a person in distress was one of the biggest ironies, and has now sadly, become a commonality.
Rohini went through a rough times with the hospital visits. Ask her about the difference the presence of a supportive and sensitive counsellor would have made to their situation at that time, and she reminisces and agrees that it would perhaps have been a bit easier to handle the stress, if someone had been there with words of encouragement. Women are emotionally strong, but seeing a loved in constant pain can break down even the strongest of women and men. Putting up a brave front for the children and facing all odds could have been easier for her if only she had the emotional support of someone who knew more, or had a better understanding of what she was going through.
The dismal plight of this family of 4 with no help or assistance from the immediate family, struck a chord with Dr. Sen, the senior Doctor on duty at the hospital who then suggested that Anupam register with ‘ZCCK’, a Government organization which facilitates the cadaver transplant of organs to needy recipients in Karnataka. To the common man, even the word ‘cadaver’ does not hold much meaning. Cadaver transplant simply means the transplant of a donor’s organs once the donor has passed away.
The major challenge for Anupam and his family was that cadaver transplants were rare. Simply because donations were few and deaths where donations could be facilitated and organs harvested, even rarer. Then began the gruelling wait for a donor cadaver and one with a matching kidney at that.
Finally in August 2010, luck struck the Singh family. There were 4 registrants with the same blood group as Anupam, and all for kidneys. Every time there was a possibility of a donation, all 4 were tested for compatibility with the donor organ, and the one found compatible would be given the organ. Anupam and Rohini were overjoyed when a cadaver donor’s kidney was found to be suitable to his blood type and kidney match. The other 3 waiting with him were a 55 year old man, an 18 year old girl and a 13 year old boy. To quote him, “I felt elated at the prospect of receiving a new kidney and a new life. However, I am also a father and seeing 13 year old children suffer in front of me ebbed my happiness but also filled me with gratitude and made me understand the value of life”.
Anupam was operated on for 8 hours. The harrowing wait during this time was hardly lengthy for a family which had waited 2.5 years for respite from their misery. The surgery was a success. Thanks to his employer, Anupam’s employers and his supportive colleagues, the family has now come to terms with the past 3 years and Anupam is now on the road to recovery. He is on immuno-suppressants and is on a permanent diet restriction with instructions on hygienic living to lead a normal life. He is healthy, young, and has a positive attitude towards life.
When asked about the identity of the donor, Anupam said “I only wish to know the identity of the donor- a brother I know nothing of, but for whom I pray every day of my new life. He has done more for me than my own blood brother. I only wish to fall at his parents’ feet and wash them with the tears of gratitude at having been given a new lease on life”. Noble thoughts and purity in genuine gratitude are what we saw in Anupam and Rohini, for the organ donor and his family.
We left, feeling inspired and having learnt a lesson on the the value of life, family and friends.