How to save a life in death

Endowing heart Family photo of Neelkanta (left) with his wife Latha and two sons Gautam and Subramanian

On 24 July, Kerala scripted another success story in the history of organ transplantation. It was for the first time that an air ambulance was used in the state to fly the organ from a donor in a Thiruvananthapuram hospital to a recipient in Kochi. The state machinery and the Kerala Network of Organ Sharing (KNOS) — the nodal agency coordinating the state government’s deceased donor organ donation programme: Mrithasanjeevani, worked in perfect coordination to ensure that a brain-dead patient’s heart was harvested and airlifted to an organ recipient 209 km away in Ernakulam within 45 minutes. The team of doctors in the Lisie Hospital, Ernakulam, completed the heart transplant in less than two hours. The recipient; Matthew Achadan, an auto driver, was given a new lease of life. “He will soon leave the hospital to get back to his normal life,” says a hospital source in Kochi.
After the success of the transplant, the state government is seriously thinking about implementing an air ambulance service in the state. According to Health Minister VS Sivakumar, discussions for launching the service are in progress. The service will be launched in coordination with the Home and Revenue Department and the Disaster Management Authority. Sivakumar says that the service will operate mainly from government medical colleges and hospitals, which have organ-transplanting facilities. The Health Secretary has been designated to expedite the process.
The story of the transplant is an inspiring one. It was a big hearted ‘yes’ from Latha, wife of Neelkanta Sarma; the donor, which made the transplant possible. The donated organs of Neelkanta, which include the heart, kidneys and the corneas, have given new meaning to the lives of five other people.
Latha, an agricultural officer with the state government, did not hesitate when the doctors of the Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute of Medical Sciences came asking for her willingness to donate the organs of her husband after he was declared brain dead. Sitting at her home in Parassala, a border town in Thiruvanathapuram district, Latha says that there is no other way she could have given a fitting farewell to her husband other than donating his organs to those in need. Her decision proved to be exemplary and has received appreciation from all quarters. It is being hailed as an act of great compassion on the social media and Latha has even received a visit from Chief Minister Oommen Chandy who thanked her for helping out others during a difficult time in their lives. But to her, the decision was only a compassionate gesture towards her husband. Latha tells Tehelka, “I was only following his wish. My husband would have done the same. I am sure that anyone who knew my husband would not oppose my decision. Moreover, I had the support of the whole family.”
Neelkanta had often expressed his desire for organ donation to his two sons Subramanian and Gautam. However, Latha was unaware of it. She says that she only came to know of his wish after she took the decision. It was perhaps the deep understanding between the two which made Latha take the call on the donation. Latha and Neelkanta were neighbours and friends since childhood. They fell in love when they were in the college and married 16 years ago. “The understanding between us helped me take such a big decision. I hope more and more people come forward to donate organs and help those who are in need of them,” says Latha.