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February is the month of love and one sees hearts flying all around. The heart has been romanticised by poets and lovers and immortalised in prose and verse for aeons. Words of romance liberally use the heart metaphorically or otherwise to express love and to capture the loved one’s heart. One look at our beloved makes our hearts thud louder, his touch sets our hearts racing; his gaze makes our heart flutter.  We open up our hearts to friends we trust, we have a heart-to-heart talk; someone is branded soft-hearted or stone-hearted. We lose our hearts to our children. But what if that heart stopped functioning? Wouldn’t your world turn topsy-turvy? What would you do if someone you loved faced this situation? 

Under terrible circumstances I met an 18 year old girl who was so emaciated that she looked 10. She has been waiting for a heart transplant for years but now her heart was giving up and she was exhausted trying to fight her body, to live.  Her most beautiful huge dark eyes looked at me and I wanted to somehow set things right for her. How could I help her? A heart can only come from someone who is brain-dead. How long will Neha wait before she finds a suitable match? Will it be too late for her because there just aren’t sufficient donors available?

Then a few days ago, I came across this article in a leading newspaper about a couple who were to get married and had an unusual request to their guests which went out attached to their wedding card. It had information about how important it is to pledge one’s organs and gift life which is so very precious instead of cash or a gift which may not be of use to the newlyweds. Dr. Komal Kanitkar and Ashutosh Palande, the couple had pledged their own organs and said they took this decision because it can help save someone’s life and is free of cost. It is a selfless good deed that will carry you far karmically in this life and beyond and it’s better to utilise the organs instead of letting them turn to ash after death. The card even had links to register as a donor.

A little research led me to the facts that India is struggling with an acute shortage of organs for transplantation. About a million people suffer with end stage organ failure, but only a handful of 3,500 transplants are performed annually. At least 15 patients die every day waiting for organs and every 10 minutes a new name is added to this waiting list. Undoubtedly, the demand far outstrips the availability of organs. People don’t realise the importance and the need of others who die due to non-availability of organs. The TA 123 Infantry Battalion, a voluntary unit of the Indian Territorial Army realised that death takes you away but your organs can stay on and save lives so the entire unit pledged their organs recently. Such an inspiration to the citizens as army men spend their lives protecting the country while they are alive and they are ready to help the countrymen even in death.

Organ donation is a noble cause, a miracle for the people who need it. You can save a 100 lives through donation of tissues and at least 8 lives through organ donation. Kidneys, eyes, heart, liver, small intestine, skin and bone tissue, and veins are donated with the motive to transplant the organs of the needy people. I wish I was in a position to influence public policy on organ donation in India. Instead I took to the mighty pen and word of mouth to tout this taboo topic to friends and colleagues etc.

Pledging your organs is a simple procedure but merely registering may not yield results till you make sure your family and friends know your decision. So you must discuss your wish of this gift of life with them in person as well as on various platforms like social media. We can help by creating awareness thereby adding potential donors so the likelihood of organs becoming available to save lives increases. This is how my dear friend Girija Menon got about a dozen of us to become proud donors.

Do you know you can donate your whole body for medical research and education? This is useful to understand the human body, advance science, train surgeons and to find new life-saving surgical procedures. Leaders like Nanaji Deshmukh, Jyoti Basu donated their bodies.

I want to be remembered for the life I gave as well as the life I lived. For my soul may go to heaven not my organs.