Desperation among Telangana patients as organ transplants come to a halt.
HYDERABAD : While donations have stagnated, hitting a zero in the months of May and July, the number of recipient registration has also come down.
She was supposed to get a kidney transplant towards the end of March. Till that point everything had gone well. Doctors had cleared her an ideal case for an organ transplant, her father had turned out to be a suitable match and with the paperwork over, even a date was scheduled. But that was when the pandemic came into the picture.
It is been nearly five months since organ transplantation surgeries have been put on hold because of Covid-19. Since February, the woman in her mid-thirties, who did not want to be named, has been undergoing dialysis, spending up to four hours in the hospital every alternate date, every time exposing herself to the highly contagious virus.
Husband Srinivas says the regular visits to the hospital have forced them to relocate from Shadnagar, about 90 km from Hyderabad, to Bolarum, about 25 km from the government hospital. “Initially we used to take her to hospital in an auto-rickshaw. The journey up and down would cost around Rs 2000. Now, I take her on my bike every alternate day,” he says.
“Life has become quite difficult. I work in the day and take her to the hospital in the evening on alternate days. It would be midnight by the time we return. Doctors are unable to say when they would resume transplantation surgeries. And my wife and father-in-law, who is the donor, are both high-risk categories now,” he rues.
Organ donation is a highly complex procedure and in Telangana, the Jeevandan foundation of the state government has been facilitating cadaver organ donation and transplantation. Between 2013 and July 2020, the foundation has reported 768 organ donations and harvested 2,923 live organs for cadaver transplantation. Of all the organs, 2010 were kidneys.
The data available with Jeevandan shows there have been only nine organ donations between April and August 2020, resulting in 14 organs. At present, there is a requirement of 1615 kidneys, 678 livers, 41 hearts, 23 lungs, and 8 pancreases, in the state, according to their registry. While donations have stagnated, hitting a zero in the months of May and July, the number of recipient registration has also come down.
Dr Swarna Latha, in-charge for the Jeevandan programme, admits that COVID-19 has dealt a heavy blow to organ donations and transplantation surgeries in the state. “Most of the hospitals, including private ones, have joined COVID-19 management. Most of the healthcare workers, too, are busy managing the pandemic leading to their unavailability. Also, ICUs and ventilators are also diverted to treating COVID-19 patients,” she tells indianexpress.com. While the demand for an organ transplantation surgery is perennially high, recipients are now desperate and this could lead to them being exploited, she said.
In July, the Hyderabad police busted an international kidney racket with the arrest of a 25-year-old DS Pavan Srinivas in Hyderabad. The MBA allegedly cheated a family after collecting Rs 34 lakh from them for arranging a kidney donor and transplant surgery in Sri Lanka or Turkey, the police said.
Joint Commissioner A R Srinivas had then told the media that Pavan had facilitated around nine kidney transplants, earning a commission of Rs 6 lakh for each transplant. He, according to police, started arranging for kidney donors after he himself reportedly donated a kidney and realised the huge potential for earning easy money.
Dr. K L Dhananjaya, a Consultant Nephrologist and Transplant Physician, lists two reasons for a significant drop in organ transplantation surgeries. In the initial days of lockdown, the declaration of patients fit for organ donation was very less. Secondly, he says, elective surgeries were stalled, and later the government has issued guidelines suggesting postponement of transplantation surgeries wherever it was not an emergency.
“Unlike in cases of heart or liver failures, kidney failure cases always have an option to undergo dialysis and extend their life by a few months without transplantation. Thats why live-related kidney transplants got postponed,” he said. A certain fear factor, too, has crept in among patients when they are told about the risks involved.
“Many studies have shown that patients post their organ transplantation, since they are immunocompromised and on immunosuppressive medication, are at