A priest sets up mutual fund for kidney donation

Over a cuppa

Fr.ChiramelPeople who volunteer to donate their kidney will form the kidney bank. In cross-donation, a chain of kidney donors formed where a relative or friend of the person who receives a kidney from a voluntary donor is required to donate his or her kidney to another needy person. No middle men and no racketeering of patients as the Kidney Federation of India set up by the priest takes care of the donation process. The federation has already been financially helping kidney patients who need dialysis. It received a fillip recently when Kerala-based industrialist Kochouseph Chittilappilly of Vegaland and Wonder La fame not only pledged his kidney but has been medically cleared to do so. Fr Chiramel spoke to R Gopakumar of Deccan Herald over the phone from Thrissur.    

Excerpts

It appears that you are being besieged by kidney patients these days.
I have been getting calls throughout the day. Initially, many of the calls were from people who were willing to pledge their kidneys for money. I told them, we were not into this trade. But now, with the big publicity it received (after Kochouseph Chittilapilly pledged his kidney), I have been getting phone calls from people who want to do it voluntarily. Kidney donation involves several stringent tests like matching of blood type and tissues as well as cross-matching.

Can you explain the cross-donation programme? 

It is simple. I donate a kidney to you. One of your relatives or friends has to donate a kidney to another needy person and a relative of that person will donate to another person. For example, in Kochouseph’s case, four patients will get kidneys. In the case of another woman, Omana, eight people will be engaged in cross-donation.

You have donated your own kidney to another patient. Was it part of cross-donation?

No, not at all. In fact, I got the idea only after that incident. I wanted people to
realise that kidney donation is not harmful to the body and many people can live long enough with one kidney. I undertook a 22-day strenuous yatra from Kasargod to Thiruvananthapuram in the hot sun barely four months after my kidney was removed. That shows our body’s resilience. We want to encourage more people to donate voluntarily.

How many kidney patients are there in Kerala?

About 1,000 people are registered with our federation alone. After I undertook the
yatra, I came to know that there are about 3,000 patients in the state. Unfortunately, the Centre and State do not seem to have realised the gravity of the situation. Kidney patients are going through hell because of the rules and regulations and are being
exploited by touts.

Rules say a person can get a kidney only from his close relative. Of what use is your facility if non-relatives cannot donate a kidney?

In Kerala, donation from non-relatives is possible if you are able to convince the
regional ethics committees that your intentions are genuine and no money is involved. The onus of ensuring a genuine deal is with this committee, which comprises eminent doctors. But then, this system has made the processes cumbersome. Patients who do not get permission simply wait for their end to come. It is this situation which has led to the birth of the Kidney Federation of India.

Were you able to convince the committee members about your federation?

We are slowly gaining credibility and some of the committee members themselves have been encouraging us. At present, about 50 per cent of patients get cheated by people who voluntarily turn up for donating. They corner about Rs 25,000 for the tests and also huge advance from the patients who end up paying heavily. A kidney transplantation involving relatives can be done at about Rs 1.5 lakh but between non-relatives the cost can go up to Rs four lakh.

How did Kochouseph Chittilappilly get drawn to your facility?

Ouseph had struggled to get a kidney for a relative years ago. Later on, he came to know about our programme and got in touch with me. Tests proved that he was healthy at 60 years and his cross-matching also proved good. He has pledged his kidney to a poor truck driver named Joy whose wife Jolly has promised to donate her kidney to Sudheer whose friend Madhu will donate his kidney in return.

Do you think this idea will be transparent and not misused?

That’s something we have to guard against, for it might become a bigger racket if it goes out of control. It all depends on how the society and the government approaches this. We need their moral support. I have plans to set up akidney bank, kidney medical centres and transportation facility for the patients.

At present, about 50 per cent of patients get cheated by people who voluntarily turn up for donating. They corner about Rs 25,000 for the tests and huge advance from the patients who end up paying heavily. A kidney transplantation involving relatives can be done at about Rs 1.5 lakh but between non-relatives the cost can go up to Rs four lakh.

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