I was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome (a kidney disorder that causes your body to pass too much protein in your urine) at the age of three. Since I was too young to undergo a transplant at that time, it was decided that I should wait until I turned 10. The journey with dialysis during the years following my diagnosis was a bumpy one, but I was fortunate to have a large and supportive family around me. I was always accompanied by two members for my dialysis sessions, and never felt alone. My staunch extended family also stood by my parents and took care of me whenever my mom was unwell. By the time I turned seven, my family decided to go ahead with my transplant, and my remarkable granny came forward to give me her kidney. The surgery was carried out in 1999. I was extremely happy and relieved to have a normal childhood after that. I obediently followed the restrictions mandated by the transplant, since I had experienced the pain of dialysis and treatment for kidney failure, and didn’t want to go through it again. My mother, who was my caregiver, prepared my food according to the prescribed diet, which I accepted without a fuss.
A few years down the line, however, I had cerebral malaria. Although I recovered from the infection, my transplant kidney was damaged in the process, and the doctors told my parents to be prepared for a second transplant in the near future. It was seven years later that my kidney gave up completely, and I had to resort to dialysis once again. Luck favoured me a second time, as my paternal uncle had already expressed his wish to donate his kidney a few years earlier. So, after four months’ dialysis, I had my second transplant in 2013. I haven’t looked back after that! Yes, I did lose out on a large chunk of my childhood and my final year of college, but the experience of dealing with the disease has broadened my perspective and given me a better understanding of the meaning of life. After transplant, I don’t have any major restriction on my diet; however, I avoid uncooked food, limit my eating out and avoid contact with anyone who is sick.
My parents spared no effort to make me feel comfortable, and always stayed strong in front of me. But as I grew up, I understood their pain and realised it had not been easy for them to deal with my condition. So to avoid adding to their misery, I would try not to cry in front of them. I have often gone through moments of depression, but always managed to pull myself together knowing that I have two angels, and a loving family and supportive friends in my life.
I have been physically active, because I really believe that some sort of physical activity is imperative. I regularly engage in Crossfit workouts and kickboxing to stay fit. This proved an advantage to me in my passion for Trekking. My very first trek happened by accident. I had gone on a holiday with friends to Manali just before my second transplant. We went up a mountain path, not realizing it was actually a trek. In the midst of trekkers who were on horseback, and healthy people who had trouble breathing in the high altitude, I felt accepted without being judged about my status as a kidney transplant recipient. Mountains have always fascinated me, and after this trek, they had become a home away from home.
Following my second transplant, after a few small treks, and having cleared the Everest Base Camp trek, I felt challenged enough to finally attempt the 11,150 ft altitude Chadar trek. The fascinating aspect of this trek is the walk on a frozen glass-like river with towering mountains on either side. The temperatures here drop down to -30 degrees at night. My team and I met at Leh, before starting off on the Chadar trek. An extremely tough, and at times terrifying, trek which we completed against all odds. With subzero temperatures, we slept in double sleeping bags in our frozen tents and God forbid, if you had to use the washroom in the middle of the night!
Since I was not allowed to take high altitude medication along with my regular medicines, my oxygen levels were checked every hour, which, on a normal course, is done two or three times a day. My requirement of greater water intake at higher altitudes was taken care of by my Sherpa who ensured availability of boiled water or bottled water, or the use of my self-filtering water bottle. My guides cooked fresh food for me, and reminded me to take my medication on time. With freezing temperatures, I had to heat the little water to brush my teeth, and change/ wash my undergarments often to maintain hygiene. The support of the team, extra alertness of the guides and porters essential for someone like me, and the faith and encouragement of my family were my driving factors. My accomplishment is proof that anyone who has had a kidney transplant can achieve whatever he/she wants.
The trek has been recorded by the Asia Book of Records which reads: Sneha Bhupathi Raju (born on January 9, 1992) of Telangana, India, is titled as ‘Grand Master’ for successfully completing the Frozen River Zanskar Chadar Trek expedition in Leh-Ladakh despite having undergone kidney transplantation recipient-surgery twice.
It upsets me that no matter what the accomplishments of a girl are, our society attaches some sort of stigma to the idea of a girl having gone through a kidney failure and transplant. Their initial reaction is almost always, “Oh! Will anyone marry her”, “Oh! Can she have kids”. I too have faced such reactions, which really irk me. I am grateful for a family and friends who are knowledgeable and understand that all these are in no way a hindrance to living a normal life and aiming for greater heights. I have been able to complete my MBA with a double major in business law and marketing, and am now aiming to get a PhD. Recently, I have also stepped into the role of an entrepreneur by opening my own café doing takeaway and deliveries.
My motto is simple – There will be days that seem extremely dark, but just know there is an angel coming to save you. We all are in this together.