A lifetime of self-discipline.
My transplant story rewinds back to a time when life was simpler, and medical procedures such as transplants were rare and unheard of. I am a 68 year old retired Assistant Engineer from Hanumangarh, Rajasthan, a proud grandfather, living a healthy and normal life with a Single Transplanted kidney for the last 43 years. After completing my Diploma in Engineering in March 1973, I joined the Irrigation Department, Rajasthan State Government, on a temporary basis. In early 1975, I was transferred to Barmer, got married in March, and my job was also regularized in the same year. I was blessed with a baby girl in July 1976. In short, I was cherishing the best time of my life.
This blissful life was disturbed in March 1977, when I experienced symptoms of vomiting and facial swelling. I was unaware that my BP had also shot up. Initially, we consulted a local doctor, but the treatment gave no relief. We then visited a physician Dr. Paras Jain, who suspected renal failure, and suggested that we go to SMS Hospital, Jaipur. This revelation came as a rude shock that jolted me and my family. None of us had ever heard of anything like this. Having led a simple and disciplined life, I could not fathom why I had developed high BP or kidney disease. After three days of dialysis, my condition did not improve, and since the hospital did not have renal transplant facility, the doctor advised me to get treated at CMC, Vellore.
The thought of travelling from a small town of Rajasthan to Vellore itself was a challenge. Besides the distance, we were also apprehensive of what to expect once we reached there. It was the commitment and determination of my elder brother, and the moral support of my father-in-law Sh. B. Paiwal, a well-informed man who took the lead, that enabled us to reach Vellore. We consulted the nephrologist at CMC, who assessed my condition, and all the required diagnostic tests were done. The doctors could not find any specific cause for my kidney failure, and concluded that a kidney transplant was the only cure. My courageous elder brother Sh. Om Prakash Sharma readily offered to donate his kidney, which was a perfect match, and the doctors decided to go ahead with the transplant.
Arranging the funds for my treatment was not easy. My father worked as a LDC, and I had just got a permanent job. Our steady source of income, a tractor that we used to hire out, had to be sold to finance my surgery. Finally, on 10th June, 1977, after being on Hemodialysis for three months, I received a kidney from my brother. As per the doctor’s advice, we decided to remain in Vellore for a year following the transplant, in order to get the best post-transplant treatment and regular follow-up.
It was a tough year for my family. My father’s entire salary was sent to me for my expenses. The challenges we faced were many: the financial crunch, the issue of language while staying in a place far from home, and, to top it all, the emotional trauma of coming to terms with my health condition. Despite all the challenges and difficulties, my entire extended family stood by me, supporting me in every way, morally and financially, focused totally on my health and recovery. The sacrifices they made for my sake are immeasurable.
On returning to my hometown after a year, I resumed my job and settled down to normal life. I derived strength from my brother’s courage, my wife’s commitment and care, and my will and determination to bounce back to life and support my family.
During a regular follow up visit to Vellore in 1982, my doctor told me about the 2nd All India Kidney Transplant Sports Meet being held at PGI, Chandigarh in 1983, and I decided to participate. Being physically active, and having maintained my health, though I did not undergo any special fitness training, I was enthusiastic and motivated to participate in the event. I secured 1st position in Long Jump and 3rd in the 100 meter race.
Recently, I was recognized by the India Book of Records, followed by the Asia Book of Records, for completing 43 years on transplant. It is an achievement for which I share credit with each member of my family. My wife Smt. Santosh Sharma always patiently supported me, though her life had been rocked by my illness just two years after marriage. Her steadfast faith in God was her source of strength. As my caregiver, she takes all precautions, even today, as advised by my doctor, and prepares healthy and tasty meals separately for me. She nurtured our children, and has remained the strong backbone of our family. On my part, I take my medicines regularly, keep myself occupied with work, and do not indulge in any unhealthy habits like smoking, consuming alcohol, or eating unhealthy food.
Today, I live a very fulfilling life. After my retirement, I have been working as an administrator in a school, and spend every minute of my time productively. My family has grown, with two sons born in 1980 and 1982; the elder one is a Dentist married to an Occupational Therapist and the younger one is the Principal of a high school, and married to a Vice-Principal. My daughter is a Homeopathic Doctor, married to a Medical Officer, residing at Jaipur with her two sons.
I am ever grateful to my doctor Dr. Chakko Korula Jacob, Nephrologist, who was part of my transplant team. He guides me even today. I have been travelling to Vellore once every two years since my surgery, until 2015. Now, my follow up is at Civil Hospital, Ahmedabad once every six months under Dr. Himanshu Patel, Dr. Vivek Kute, and Dr. Manoj Gumber. Dr. Harish Pathak of Mumbai’s Nanavati Hospital, whom I met at Vellore in 2012, also guides me, and I am grateful for his valuable advice whenever required.
Simplicity and discipline are a way of life for me, and I never feel that I have missed out on anything in life because of my transplant. I adhere to a regular routine of waking up early, walking for at least an hour, and practicing yoga irrespective of my other engagements. It is with the same consistency that I take my medicines as well, never having missed a single dose. While travelling, I carry homemade food/snacks that remain fresh for several days, and restrict my diet to curd and rotis if I have to eat out. My brother is also healthy and fit, and living a normal life since the surgery. My children have never seen me ill or bedridden, and were unaware of my surgery for a long time. They came to know about it informally from the family, when they were old enough to understand. My cool and level headed attitude helps them also to overcome difficult situations. I believe that having a positive outlook towards life is the secret to my wellbeing.
My mantra is simple: Follow the doctor’s advice with regard to taking the medicines as well as the restrictions, eat healthy, stay active and positive. My life was saved by my brother’s willingness to donate a kidney. I hope to inspire and motivate others also to sign up for organ donation, as it is said, “Ang Daan, Maha Daan”.