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Stalled organ donation resumes after outbreak

October 13, 2020

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Stalled organ donation resumes after outbreak

Aurangabad, Maharashtra: As the coronavirus pandemic hit India, organ donation screeched to a halt. The fear of the spread of the virus discouraged health professionals from going forward with organ donation. However, with the body donation of a bank security officer from Maharashtra on July 30, the state has restarted the stalled body or organ donation process after a wait of four months.

The deceased’s daughter and a resident of Aurangabad, Shruti Choube, who is a doctor, stated that after her father’s demise on July 30, the family was reminded of his wish to donate his body for research.

Having little idea on how to go about with body donation, the family members then contacted Rajendrasingh Suryawanshi, president of Aurangabad Youth Social Welfare Foundation, an NGO which works for the promotion of voluntary organ and body donation in Maharashtra.

Speaking to 101Reporters, Suryawanshi mentioned that he contacted the Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH), Aurangabad, where he experienced initial difficulties as hospitals are hesitant to take in donations. However, he contacted Dr Nita Padalkar, the municipal health officer, who sent a team of health workers to the house of the deceased.

The team carried out an antigen test and found the dead body free of Coronavirus and this allowed for the donation of the body, he added.

Respite for patients

According to the data provided by the State Organ and Tissue Transplant Organization (SOTTO), 16 persons died while waiting for kidney, liver or heart transplant in Maharashtra in the April-August period.

Dr Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, director of the government transplant organisation for the western region, stated that the number of organ donations has dropped drastically during the lockdown. She underlined that for patients of end-stage liver, heart and lung failure, a transplant is essential.

For these patients, it’s important to assess the benefits of a transplant against the risks of contracting COVID-19, she added.

According to Dr Pratima Kulkarni-Tungikar, who is the HoD of the anatomy department at GMCH, they couldn’t receive any bodies since March owing to the pandemic.

“After receiving the body our health workers carry out the process of embalming it so that it can be preserved. The body is then used by the students of the institution for study and research. Therefore, we need to ensure that the body is not contaminated,” she said.

She added that getting bodies is equally important for a medical college as it would help in the education of students.

In the case of Chaube, the GMCH anatomy department agreed to receive the body following the approval of GMCH dean Dr Kanan Yelikar.

Dr Sudhir Kulkarni, chairman of the Zonal Transplant Coordination Committee (ZTCC), Marathwada, underlined that though the wait for organs has been increasing, hardly any transplants could be done. The resumption of organ donation means that the patients waiting for organs would finally get some respite, but there are more hurdles that need to be overcome, he added.

He informed that the National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organization (NOTTO) has issued clear guidelines for organ donation in wake of coronavirus. “In order to facilitate organ donation, we need a separate non-affected outpatient and inpatient department within the hospital or a dedicated hospital along with staff for the purpose. However, during the pandemic, we have to fix priority and focus on control and management of COVID-19,” he said.

Kulkarni said that in the case of kidney requirement, the patients can be made to wait by keeping them on dialysis. For heart and liver, the transplants have to be done immediately but in Marathwada, there is no dedicated non-COVID-19 facility yet to carry out the retrieval and transplant. He, however, added that due to lockdown, many patients especially in the rural areas faced difficulties reaching to the dialysis centres failing to get the prescribed number of dialysis.