MAKING BODY DONATION A MOVEMENT
DO you know around five lakh people die in our country every year because of non-availability of organs and two lakh of them die of liver disease only? Equally, about 50,000 die from heart disease and out of 1.5 lakh people waiting for kidney transplantation hardly 5,000 get one. Not only this about one million people suffer from corneal blindness and await transplantation. The reality is that just 0.08 persons Per Million Population (PMP) donate organs in our country. This is an incredibly insignificant number as compared to the organ donation statistics around the world. There is one more fact. Four medical students need a cadaver to complete their studies, but today 30 to 35 students have to study on one cadaver only.
On the other hand the countries like USA, UK, Germany, Netherlands, etc have seen the organ donations double per million population averaging between 10-30 PMP. Other countries like Singapore, Belgium and Spain have seen the rate of donations double averaging between 20-40 PMP. This all indicate to the speed that we have to move for body or organ donation. In such a situation the efforts of Shri Alok Kumar seem to be making a big impact in the lives of both, those who are waiting for organ transplantation and the young medicos who need cadavers for understanding the human body for advancing science.
“The seed of this initiative basically germinated during 1974-75 when I was a Sangh Pracharak in Amritsar. I frequently visited the Medical College there. The very first exhibit in the anatomy museum there was of a retired Head of the Department, who had written in his ‘will’ that ‘all my life I have been teaching my students on other persons’ bodies. Now, I wish that after my death my body is donated to this place’. I wrote to Dr Harsh Vardhan, who was then in Kanpur Medical College, about the wonderful idea of body donation. He wrote me back enthusiastically endorsing the idea. Later, the Emergency was imposed and we both were engaged in other things,” recalls Alokji while sharing his experience on February 10, 2014 in Delhi. In 1994, when the Transplantation of the Human Organs Act was passed, Alokji and some of his friends decided to donate their bodies. They did it by registering their wills with the Sub Registrar. “My wife was in the court as a witness. On that day I had a wonderful experience. Sub Registrar was sitting on his seat. He called my name and I walked five-six steps towards him. In those steps I, in my mind, visualised as if I am dead. I saw my dead body and the friends, family members assembled there. Some of them were weeping, sobbing and some were satisfied that now they could work in politics free of me. And then I visualised a medical college van coming and taking my body away. The will was registered. Next morning as I just sat out, the meaning of it unfolded before me. I saw my dead body being taken away. But I am not the body. I am different form. Who am I? And then the answer came to me Main shuddha, buddha mukta atma hoon. I am not the body I am spirit and soul,” Alokji added.
Alokji believes that body donation is a spiritual work. He shared one more interesting experience: “When Yamuna inundated, I was assigned for the relief work that year. Naturally, it kept everybody busy 24 hours. I caught some infection in my eyes and they swelled. Everyday my father would ask me to go to a doctor and every day I would tell him that I have no time. One day he said, Alok! ‘you have donated your eyes’? I said, ‘off course’. ‘They have to be given for transplantation’? I said, ‘Yes’. Is it not that you are a mere trustee of your eyes now? ‘Yes’. ‘Is it not your duty to keep them good and usable’? That was the second idea that I got. In fact, we are just trustees of our bodies.”
Around 1997, when Nanaji Deshmukh expressed the wish to register him for body donation that the Dadhichi Dehdan Samiti came into existence. Alokji recalls: “When I was doing the documentation for Nanaji’s will, he said he is a Pracharak and remains on tours, what if death came outside Delhi. I said that will be the God’s will, as we cannot operate outside Delhi. Nanaji was very anxious on my answer. He thought for some time and called for cheque book. He made a cheque of Rs 11,000 in our favour and said ‘I am paying you the expenses. Now wherever I die, you have to arrange for bringing my body to Delhi and give to the AIIMS. This is how Nanaji became the Samiti’s first body donor. Later, when Nanaji left his body at Chitrakoot, it was brought to Delhi and donated to the AIIMS.” Other prominent body donors include two former MLAs, Bodhraji and DK Jain, and former BMS national president Rajkrishna Bhakt.
The Samiti accepts the pledge for body or organ donation only in a prescribed form having signatures either of a close family member or the person of the donor’s choice. It also asks the donor to donate at least a sum of Rs 150. “Like 16 samskars in our culture, we have made body donation also a samskar. Every year we hold a festival of body donors, in which the donors come with their witnesses. We executive their will and give them identity card and certificate. The event prominently has four presentations—one by a person who has donated the body in his family that year, second the person who pledges for body donation, third a top person from spiritual field, and four a top person from medical field. The whole exercise firms up an understanding in the donor and his family that this donation is a pious obligation,” Alokji adds.
So far, 83 whole bodies have been donated to Maulana Azad Medical College, AIIMS, Nehru Homeopathy College, University College of Medical Sciences, Hamdard Medical College, etc. The eyes were prominently donated to Gurunanak Eye Centre. “We have resolved that within three years we would wipe out the waiting list for eye transplantation in Delhi. The RSS Delhi Prant has also decided to take it as a common endeavour with us,” he points out.
The initiative has received the blessings of many big personalities like RSS Sanghachalak Shri Mohan Bhagwat who attended a function in Patna. Didi Maa Sadhvi Ritambhara, on 80 birth anniversary of her guru, decided to gift 80 pledge forms for body donation. But the number of forms that were actually given was 126. Around 3,500 people including VHP patron Ashok Singhal, senior leader Acharya Giriraj Kishor, former Dy CM of Bihar Sushil Modi are now registered with the Samiti for body donation.
When asked how the bodies are collected after death, Alokji says: “When the death takes place all that the family members have to do is to call our helpline number. The entire subsequent arrangements are made by us, which include coordinating with the family, arranging a vehicle to collect the eyes or body ensuring that the body is delivered to a medical college in time.”
Changing the mindset is the biggest challenge in such cases. Replying the queries of some mediapersons, who asked how one would get salvation if the body is not cremated, Didi Maa said Shastras prescribe methods for it. One can do his pindadaan in his lifetime. If somebody does it and his body is not cremated then non-cremation is not an abstraction to body donation. “Former RSS chief Rajju Bhaiya once pointed out that the Ayurveda has proper methods of studying the human body. It even provides for the instruments by which it is cut and the way it is to be studied. It shows that body donation has been a long practice in our country,” points out Alokji. The Samiti works in the National Capital Region only. Some people in Patna, Pune and Mumbai have formed separate units. “It is the work which needs timely action. If the eyes are not taken within four hours they become useless.
Equally, if the other organs are not taken in time they cannot be transplanted. That is why we cannot operate outside Delhi,” concluded Alokji. When we see the human organ rackets flourishing in different parts of the country, this initiative shows the way.