My Transplant Experience by Mr. V. Krishnan
It has been 23 years since I underwent a kidney transplant on 25th March 1997. I am now a 69-year-old senior citizen residing in Bangalore with my wife with both my sons settled abroad. I am still keeping myself busy with some consultancy work for two organisations in Chennai. I consider myself to be moderately fit and able to carry out all my chores. But behind all this outwardly smooth journey and a comfortable quality of life, I wish to share my mid-life health crisis which threatened to shake and even uproot me and family. I was a part of a joint family when I was growing up – two brothers, four sisters, grandmother, parents and I; we totalled 10 members in a small 450 sq. ft flat in Mumbai. I studied in the best of schools and started working in Mumbai. Things were going fine and I was able to put in hard work backed by good health. But by the age of 31, I started getting heaviness in the head and a lurking headache which became a source of botheration. I was diagnosed as having hypertension. My blood pressure used to go out of control often. I consulted different physicians. Since kidney diseases were very rare those days (early 1980s), only one of the doctors whom I consulted suggested even testing the kidney function, but the lab which tested gave an erroneous reading stating that all was well. I carried on with my bodily discomfort for nearly 14 years before I chanced to meet a Railway doctor recommended by my brother-in-law in Mumbai. Just as I was about to leave his consultation room, he enquired whether I had done a kidney function test. I said ‘No’. He suggested checking the kidney function at Hinduja Hospital without any delay whatsoever. I was found to have a creatinine of 5 mg/dL (the normal range being 0.8 – 1.2 mg/dL).
The Hinduja Hospital nephrologist said that my kidneys had failed and I’d better start looking for a donor. This was the first time I was hearing about kidney failure. The whole world came crashing down. The taxi ride from Hinduja Hospital in Mahim to my residence in Sion in Mumbai was one of the most depressing rides of my life. So many negative thoughts passed through my mind. Most of it veered around my wife standing helpless with my two sons with a sick and dying patient in bed. Also how was I to frame my sentences at home to lessen the impact of the blow to my family members. The nephrologist at Hinduja Hospital had also told me that one can delay the day of reckoning (commencement of dialysis) by a few months, maybe a year by switching over to a protein free diet.
Meanwhile the search for a donor could begin. Every member of the family was praying that the rise in creatinine could be arrested. The talk of a donor had not even arisen till this moment! But where to start off the dialysis and do the transplant was a regular point of debate at home. Apollo Hospitals, Chennai was recommended by many because of Dr. M.K. Mani and his team. Eventually the creatinine did shoot up compelling me to make a dash to Apollo Hospitals, Chennai which gave me some more time to start off on dialysis. My elder brother, a bachelor came with me to offer his kidney, but could not pass the tests because of his poor platelet count. He was terribly disappointed. I was losing hope and dialysis was becoming inevitable. No donor was on the radar. Deceased donation had not yet taken off then. Meanwhile I was coming to the conclusion that divine intervention could be a solution. I visited many temples in the South and did all types of ‘poojas’ and even visited a Swamiji for a herbal remedy. When you are in distress you tend to believe weird things. I watched helplessly as the creatinine crossed 10 mg/dL. Finally, I got admitted on 1st March 1997 in Apollo Hospitals, Chennai for dialysis. The first day was really tough. I collapsed at the reception ` lobby after the dialysis. My sister, Mrs. Saroja Viswanathan and my wife Visalakshi were there with me fortunately. My sister left after a week for Mumbai. With the dialysis on and no donor in sight, mentally I was going through the worst part of my life. However, like a bolt from the blue, my sister called me up one fine morning to say that she was coming back to Chennai to offer her kidney and do the matching tests.
Although this was one of the happiest moments in our life, my wife and I wanted to double check whether she was fully aware of the risks involved in the donation of one kidney and life thereafter with one kidney. We also spoke to our brother-in-law and my sister’s son in USA. Both said they were fine with the donation. I always wondered who belled the cat since there was no sign of my sister donating when she was with me during the initial stages of dialysis. I guess my wife did have a role which I came to know long after the transplant. I still think this was perhaps the most difficult part of the process. As of date I do not know what transpired between the two of them nor have I gathered enough courage to ask them.
My sister came for all the matching tests and things fell into place in quick succession. Both of us were admitted on the same day and the transplant took place. She was 54 years and I was 47 years at the time. So, I was reborn on 25th March 1997. My post-transplant care was handled by my wife. Thanks to her even my closest friends and relatives could see me only from a safe distance. Medicines were given without fail at the stipulated time. I have had cataract and a few other health issues over the years, but barring that I have always had a good quality of life. My sister who is now 77 is also doing fine. I wish to thank my sister for the Gift of Life and my wife for her untiring posttransplant care which continues with the same intensity and vigour even today. Of course, the large family into which I was born was a great blessing. Apart from the tremendous moral support in the midlife crisis I am privileged that two of my siblings came forward to offer a kidney voluntarily. This is almost becoming impossible in a nuclear family of present times. Finally, I owe my second innings to the excellent healthcare system in the country which has some of the finest doctors in the world backed by skilled technicians and caring nurses. I could work with renewed vigour and move up the corporate ladder. I got in touch with MOHAN Foundation in 2008 and even participated in their Transplant Coordinators’ Training Programme in 2009. I have given several awareness talks in corporates and educational institutions in Bangalore. My advice to patients is ‘NEVER LOSE HOPE’.
- Copyright © 2021. Published by MOHAN Foundation
- Keywords: Kidney diseases, kidney transplant, post transplant care, Transplant Coordinators’ Training Programme, living kidney donor, kidney recipient