Wings Of Compassion: A Journey of Resilience & Hope in Organ Donation Advocacy

Hope- Organ Donation

As of August 2023, more than 300,000 patients were awaiting organ donations in India. Since then, the number of donors has increased somewhat, but it is not enough to meet the growing demand.

Experts are of the opinion that the country should urgently increase the rate of deceased donations, especially through greater awareness among ICU doctors and families on how one deceased patient can save multiple lives

In the course of her arduous journey, Lijamol Joseph had stood—and fought—all alone, without godparents or guardians, yet unwilling to settle for a life devoid of purpose. Deep within, she yearned for freedom and a calling to care for those around her. With unwavering determination, Lijamol pursued her studies in social work, seeking to spread her wings and serve society.

Introduction to the world of organ donation and transplantation ignited a spark within Lijamol. She was captivated by the intricate complexities of the subject and eagerly immersed herself in its depths. As she delved deeper, she found herself assisting newly diagnosed organ failure patients, bearing witness to the delicate balance between life and death.

India’s Health ministry data show that a total of 16,041 donations were recorded in 2022. The country’s living donors comprise 85% of all donors, say experts. The organ donation system in the US and Spain is far better, clocking 30-50 donations per million.

Doctors say that the country should increase this to 65 donations per million people. For that to happen, the public sector healthcare has to be improved.

India has as many as 600 medical colleges and more than 20 AIIMS. Just one donation from each of them a year can improve the scenario considerably. Even if we look at the world, only 10% of the patients needing organs get them in time.

What is most urgently needed now is that trauma and ICU doctors be trained to help patients’ families to step forward and help the process forward.

In India, the number of patients with chronic diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes, is quite high. Kidney is the most transplanted organ in India, but the present number of transplantations (11,243), is not enough to meet the demand of nearly 200,000 renal failures every year.

And a huge number of patients depend on dialysis for their entire lives—mostly waiting for a donor, or financial support for a transplant surgery, in private sector hospitals. Many even die due to a lack of affordable, or accessible, medical services.

What began as a job transformed into a heartfelt mission as Lijamol dedicated herself to preparing recipients physically, mentally and financially for life-saving transplants. She extended her services to include counseling families of brain-dead patients, offering them solace and the opportunity to grant a second chance at life to others.

Guiding donor families through the organ donation process, from start to finish, became Lijamol’s calling in life. She pioneered streamlined procedures and worked tirelessly to ensure that every donation became a source of pride and solace for the donor family.

Lijamol’s collaboration with the Karnataka government’s cadaver organ donation platform provided a platform to reform policies and protocols surrounding organ donation. Through hands-on experience with recipients and donor families, Lijamol maximized organ utilization within the state and facilitated organ sharing with other states, too.

Through Lijamol’s ceaseless efforts, Karnataka earned acclaim as one with the best emerging state organ donation and tissue transplantation body, awarded by the national body, the National Organ & Tissue Transplant Organisation (NOTTO), in Delhi. In 2023, Karnataka contributed 178 donors, ranking second in the country—a dream realized through dedication and perseverance.

Simple, Yet Profound Vision

Committed to spreading this message far and wide, Lijamol ensures that hope prevails and lives are saved through the gift of organ donation. Lijamol’s vision is simple, yet profound: ‘Every Gift Counts: Transforming Lives through Organ Donation’.

To achieve this, she tirelessly advocates for organ donation, urging the public to embrace the Gift of Life. She considers the impact of such humanitarian decisions and encourages people to say ‘Yes’ to organ donation, knowing that, in doing so, they give others a second chance at life.

Her tireless work has not gone unnoticed. Lijamol has been featured in Outlook India’s prestigious list as one of the ‘10 Women Pioneers Shaping an Inclusive Future’ for her exceptional contributions to organ donation and transplantation.

She was the recipient of the ‘Swamy Narayan Best Transplant Coordinators’ Award’ on the 2023 Indian Society of Organ Transplantation/Network and Alliance of Transplant Coordinators (ISOT/NATCO) platform, establishing her as a distinguished leader in transplant coordination at the national level.

Lijamol’s advocacy has been recognized by the Chief Minister of Karnataka, Siddaramaiah, Health Minister, Dinesh Gundu Rao, and Dr Sudhakar, who honored her for her contributions to the cause of organ donation on various occasions.

Impact Beyond Boundaries

Lijamol’s impact extends beyond regional boundaries. She has been elected as an executive committee member for the southern states of India at NATCO, committed to advancing the field and fostering collaboration among professionals in organ transplantation coordination.

Lijamol’s role as a social worker at the Institute of Gastroenterology Sciences & Organ Transplant (IGOT) Hospital in Bangalore allows her to contribute to thoughtful discussions fostering excellence in ethical considerations and decision-making processes.

She also serves as State Secretary for Karnataka at the Indian Association of Transplant Coordinators and holds honorary memberships in prestigious organizations, such as the Rotary Club for Organ Donation and the International Hepato-Pancreato Biliary Association.

Currently at the helm of strategic planning for Duraent Lifesciences, Lijamol continues to harness her extensive network and influence to cultivate collaborative partnerships with governmental bodies, healthcare providers, advocacy groups and industry stakeholders.

Her efforts are aimed at influencing policy decisions, securing funding and fostering an environment conducive to innovation in organ transplantation, benefiting both patients and donor families.

About author: Girish Linganna of this article is a Defence, Aerospace & Political Analyst based in Bengaluru. He is also Director of ADD Engineering Components, India, Pvt. Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany.

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