Specialist encourages donating organs

By Elizabeth Ah-Hi ,

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CONSIDER A 'GIFT OF LIFE': Dr D. Vijaya Rajakumari from Apollo Hospital Group speaks passionately about encouraging Samoans to seriously consider organ donation.

CONSIDER A 'GIFT OF LIFE': Dr D. Vijaya Rajakumari from Apollo Hospital Group speaks passionately about encouraging Samoans to seriously consider organ donation. (Photo: Elizabeth Ah-Hi)

A kidney specialist from India has emphasised that more education is needed around encouraging Samoans to be more open towards donating their kidneys.

In the event that your loved one may need a kidney transplant, Dr. D. Vijaya Rajakumari, from the visiting Apollo hospitals group, spoke passionately about looking at solid organ donating as a “gift of life”.

She explained people will need renal replacement therapy when they reach five stages of kidney failure. You could either use the abdomen as the dialysis area or do chemo dialysis, which is something that we have already achieved in Samoa. 

The third option, she explained, is kidney donating which is something she strongly supports that we educate our people about.

“The other way, which is something I expect the media to educate the public on is that kidney donating is safe. People who donate can go on to make babies, can go back to work and live a normal life, so that is a message that I want to give to the community that it is OK to donate a kidney and live normal.”

She acknowledged that for Pacific peoples, it is very rare to see this practice and it is mainly because of the lack of information.  

“Every country is different, if you look from a Christian point of view, love your neighbour as you do yourself,” she said. “It’s more than your neighbour, it’s your whole family and it’s not easy but it comes as a sacrifice."

“If you have one normal functioning kidney that is enough to live life and we only take one kidney if they are fit, we don’t want to create two sick people at the end of it. It’s a gift of life."

 “You have to remember, people can’t be killed in this. It’s a hype that’s been created by the media. The heart is one organ where we take from a brain dead donor. There are two kinds of death, one where the heart stops first and one when the brain stops first.”

Dr. Rajakumari explained why she supports awareness about solid organ donating saying that if there is a chance to take our people off the machines and enable them to live productive normal lives, then we should seriously consider organ donating.

“When I looked around the national kidney foundation, I just realised that there are 109 kidney failure patients who are being taken care of with dialysis of the sector by the Government,” she said. 

“That is a major achievement that the Samoa Government has done so when you have these patients now, do we just leave them on dialysis? Or what is the way forward?”

“The ages vary from 25 years to 75-80 years old in the system of 109 patients on dialysis. If you look at it, there is a group that is the productive age which is stuck on the machines so we need to take them off the machines so they can go back and work effectively at a quality life without being tied on to the machine."

“As we develop the system, everyone has to develop the system as we transfer technology so that is what we are looking at. We need all the help to get people to come forward to donate.” 

Looking ahead to the future of Samoa’s healthcare services, the kidney transplant specialist says they are committed to working towards training our local surgeons to be able to do the procedure on island.

“That’s what we are looking at. We plan to do access procedures here in training the local surgeons who can do it instead of patients travelling out of the country to the neighbouring countries to get the procedure done. So that is one commitment that we do have.”

According to Dr. Rajakumari, Apollo Hospitals Groups has the record for the world’s largest series of kidney transplants. In the last six years, they have also been the biggest solid organ transplant group in terms of kidneys, livers, heart, lungs put together and she mentioned that they have invited the medical faculty here to come to India to spend three-six months fellowship training with their group.

“At some stage in the next four-five years, we want to make Samoa the capital of kidney transplant for the Pacific region,” she said. 

“Instead of coming all the way to India, they can come to Samoa and have a transplant.”

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