On the night of December 9, Rajeev Maikhuri of the Organ Retrieval Banking Organisation (ORBO) at AIIMS got an unusual phone call. He was told that 21-year-old Anmol Juneja, had died in a road accident in a private hospital. And his family wanted to donate his organs only to a government hospital. However, there is a catch.
It is only in the case of a brain death that transplant of vital organs like heart, kidneys, lungs can happen. The problem? Brain death doesn’t feel like death to the families.
Aarti Vij, who heads the ORBO, explains,“ There is cardiac death and brain death. In brain death, the brain stops working but the heart does not, which might give hope to the family that the patient might be alive.
“But it is a proper rigorous procedure done only after a team of four check the patient twice and after an interval of a few hours. Not all hospitals are equipped to diagnose brain death. The timing is also crucial. If it gets late, then brain death might become cardiac death and then organ donation would not be possible.”
In Anmol’s case, the family itself volunteered to have the organs donated. After a road accident, Anmol was admitted to East Delhi’s Max Hospital for three days, where he suffered a brain death. In fact when Maikhuri went to the hospital, he found that among the huge group of Anmol’s family and friends present, there was no difference of opinion among them about the act. Anmol was the only son, and they had a tradition of donation in their family, doctors were told. This again was unusual because as Vij explains, “ Even if one person agrees to donate, someone or the other in the family might object”.
According to the doctors, 15-20 people would benefit from this case. The heart, though, could not be transplanted because of the lack of a recipient even after calls had been made to private and government hospitals to find one. Finally, his heart valve, kidneys, liver, bones and cornea were donated. Out of these, the bones and cornea are still in bank.
Inspired by Anmol ’s case, others too are coming forward. “Recently I got a call from a boy inquiring about organ donation as his mother was ill. Though there was opposition from his uncle, the boy had agreed because of Anmol,” Maikhuri says.
MC Mishra who heads the AIIMS Trauma Centre said that out of about 1,000 cases of severe brain damage at AIIMS every year, 100 are of brain death. “Out of these 100, less than 10% agree to donation.”