Mr. V.G. Chandra Sekharan, Kidney transplant recipient
As I sit for my interview with V.G. Chandra Sekharan (VG), Charles R. Swindoll’s words “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it” flash through my mind. I feel blessed and privileged to unfold the remarkable journey of one of India’s longest surviving kidney transplant recipients and his lovely mother Mrs. A. Sarvamangala who at 92 is one of the longest surviving living organ donors of India. VG told me that by God’s grace both of them are leading a normal life. He said, “Amma is hand holding me and each day of my life has been a blessing. No one in your life will ever love you as your mother does. There is no love as pure, unconditional and strong as a mother’s love. Her kidney is still going strong defying medical predictions over the organ’s life span. She was the inspiration to many people when she donated her kidney to me in 1988, including Rev.Fr. Davis Chiramel, noted industrialist Mr. Kochouseph Chittilappilly, both of them kidney donors. She is very active and mobile and has no health issues so far. She also supports me and guides me in my work.” He also mentioned to me with pride and affection that Amma gives 50% of her monthly pension money for the treatment of below poverty line (BPL) patients and that on 17th August 2020 she inaugurated the shop of a disabled person.
I told VG, “God bless her! Your mother is indeed an inspiration to each one of us. Can you tell us about her daily routine?” VG replied with childlike enthusiasm, “Usha, except in the initial days when she donated her kidney to me, she has not taken any medicines for the past 32 years and has never been hospitalised even for a day. By God's grace she is absolutely normal and leading a healthy life. Also, you will be surprised to know that she only takes a cold-water bath and never uses hot water. As far as her diet is concerned, she is a pure vegetarian. She does all the household chores on her own and without asking or taking anybody's help.” Stunned, I was speechless for a long moment. “Let’s talk about the gift of life given to you by your loving mother who was 60 years old then and you all were also very young - you were 32, your wife 28 and your daughter just 3 years old. Please tell me VG, how you felt when you came to know about your kidney failure?” VG replied, “It all began on a rainy day in 1987 when I was driving my car from Trivandrum to Kottayam around 6 am and met with a serious accident. I was in and out of hospital for a whole year. I was diagnosed with hypertension in early 1988 and acute kidney failure. This immediately raised alarm bells and I was sent to Apollo hospital, Chennai right away. They did some tests and told me that I had kidney failure and that my condition was irreversible. My family and I were in deep shock and dazed. I am indebted to my doctors who saved my life - Dr. M. K. Mani, chief nephrologist and Dr. Joseph Thachil, chief urologist. They started me on dialysis immediately as further delay would have endangered my life. Dr. Mani explained to me that transplant was my only chance for survival. I was deeply touched when family and friends stood by me and offered to help. My mother and wife were praying and observing fasts and finally my mother even offered her kidney to me. My mother's kidney was a perfect match. My 32 years of extended life after my kidney transplant is a miracle which would have never been possible without God’s blessings and my mother’s noble sacrifice. Today everything seems like a dream. As a school teacher Appa’s income was limited. We could not manage the exorbitant medical expenses. So, we sold our house for the transplant surgery. The expenses extended even post-transplant due to the many episodes of rejection I faced. But the biopsy showed the kidney was fine. Then gradually, things settled down. Today I am blessed with my dream home, a loving and caring family, two children and a cute little granddaughter, wonderful friends, and above all by God’s grace both my mother and myself are doing well and are very actively promoting kidney health and organ donation awareness.”
As I sat back and looked at VG, John F. Kennedy’s words “Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future” flashed in my mind and I told VG that he had come a long way. “Let’s now talk about your life after the transplant and what is the secret of your kidney health? I am always amazed by your disciplined lifestyle and your commitment towards working for the noble cause of organ donation by spreading awareness and your kidney advocacy!”
VG said, “Life is a continuous learning experience. In the past 32 years I endured many hardships and heartache but there were celebrations and special moments as well. I worked very hard and accomplished all my goals, built my dream home, and even my son was born post my transplant. I strongly feel what we go through in our life and how we react to those situations determines the outcome of how the rest of our life will be. I accept each day as it comes and my deep faith in God has always been my strength. After my retirement as General Manager (Admin & HR) from NIIMS I formed my trust - Kidney Foundation Kerala (KFK). It is a registered charitable organisation under Societies Registration Act, Govt. of Kerala, India that started functioning from Thrissur and Kozhikode in 2012. The objectives of KFK include imparting awareness to the public about kidney failure, spreading awareness about the noble cause of organ donation, psychological counselling, and raising funds for the poor. KFK also works with many other like-minded charitable organisations for conducting free medical camps, seminars and workshops for early screening of kidney disease. I have been running a dialysis centre for the past two years for underprivileged dialysis patients, totally free of cost.
There are presently two machines at the centre. Every day new ideas becomes my focus be it sports, employment, expanding the organ donor pool, and improving my dialysis centre. I always had great regard for MOHAN Foundation and wanted to meet Dr. Sunil Shroff and his team. Thank you, Usha, you made this possible when I told you about this desire of mine.” VG then said, “As far as my daily routine goes, I always felt that I must honour my mother’s supreme sacrifice. So, I became very strict with my eating habits and followed a Sattvik (simple) lifestyle. My day starts with meditation, in which my wife also participates, followed by a long morning walk. I have home-cooked hot meals and avoid crowded places.”
Listening to VG, what came to mind was something that the former President of India Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam said, “You can’t change your future but you can change your habits and surely your habits will change your future.”I told VG, “You have set an example to others dealing with organ failure through your personal life as well as your kidney advocacy work.
You are a phenomenal person, always moving forward. Persistence is what separates you from the rest. Tell me more about your remarkable achievements. ”VG replied, “I was a badminton player and always liked sports. After my transplant I wanted to prove to the world that we can also lead a normal life like others. I also felt that I must make others understand the fact that transplant enhances your life and fulfills your dreams. I am the first Indian transplant recipient and medallist in the special World Olympic games held in UAE in March 2019. I am the first Indian transplant recipient to climb Colorado Springs mountain at an altitude of 15,000 feet at a temperature of minus 24 degrees Celsius without supplemental oxygen in 2018.”
While I am waiting for VG to launch his book “Unsung Heroes” featuring his inspiring story, I can’t help recalling Helen Keller’s words “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”
- Usha Balasubramanian
Pateint Support Group - TRIOMPH
- Copyright © 2021. Published by MOHAN Foundation
- Keywords: longest surviving kidney transplant recipients, longest surviving living organ donors of India, Apollo hospital Chennai, Kidney Foundation Kerala (KFK), World Olympic games, Unsung Heroes