JI­VANA: Live Life, Give Life

-through the gift of or­gan and tis­sue do­na­tion

Asian Journal - - Front Page - Ray Hud­son

Ear­lier this week, I was sit­ting in a restau­rant hav­ing coffee with Jazz Gill and Sunny Tutt, two vi­brant healthy young men, who were ea­ger to share their sto­ries and who, had it not been for or­gan trans­plants, prob­a­bly wouldn’t be alive, let alone liv­ing nor­mal healthy lives. At the age of 14 years, Jazz Gill be­came ill at school and was taken to the emer­gency depart­ment at the hos­pi­tal. By that time, he’d lost 75% of his blood vol­ume. Sub­se­quent in­ves­ti­ga­tion found that his liver had failed due to hep­ati­tis C, which was traced to an ear­lier blood trans­fu­sion. He needed a liver trans­plant. Over the next nine years, he was in and out of hospi­tals, be­ing treated to keep his liver func­tion­ing as long as pos­si­ble. Fi­nally placed on the trans­plant list, it was two years un­til a donor was found and the op­er­a­tion con­ducted. “It will be thir­teen years in April since the trans­plant,” said Jazz, “and I’m liv­ing a healthy, nor­mal life. The only dif­fer­ence is the need to take the anti-re­jec­tion med­i­ca­tions.” At the age of eigh­teen, Sunny Tutt was train­ing to be­come a Line­man for the SFU Clan foot­ball team. With a for­mer CFL player coach­ing him, he was sprint­ing up hills and bench­ing two-hun­dred pounds when he be­came sick. Se­vere weak­ness and pneu­mo­nia fol­lowed, but he didn’t get any bet­ter, even with the pneu­mo­nia gone. On the fifth trip to the ER in Sur­rey, he and his father were able to con­vince them that some­thing was se­ri­ously wrong. He was fi­nally ad­mit­ted, and an X-ray showed that his heart was two and a half times its nor­mal size and about 15% ef­fi­cient. He was di­ag­nosed with a car­diomy­opa­thy, an ir­re­versible and fa­tal con­di­tion where the heart mus­cle fails. Over the next eleven years he was treated with a “cock­tail of med­i­ca­tions” as his physicians said, “to keep the heart go­ing as long as pos­si­ble.” In 2013, he went into com­plete heart fail­ure and had a heart pump im­planted.

In July of 2014, he re­ceived a new heart, and he could be­gin liv­ing again. He is now the pic­ture of health, and is en­gaged to Man­preet Jo­hal, who is also the event plan­ner and com­mu­nity re­la­tions of­fi­cer for Ji­vana. Through their or­deals, both of th­ese young men met oth­ers who had gone be­fore them in re­ceiv­ing donor or­gans. Jag­tar Gill who re­ceived a new liver, and Jas Oberoi, who suf­fered the same ill­ness as Sunny, and re­ceived a new heart, were there to pro­vide en­cour­age­ment and sup­port to the new trans­plant re­cip­i­ents prior to the op­er­a­tion and through the re­cov­ery. Ex­press­ing a de­sire to give back and to in­crease aware­ness of need for or­gan do­na­tion in the South Asian Com­mu­nity, the four men formed the Ji­vana Or­gan Do­na­tion So­ci­ety, and a week ago, launched their aware­ness cam­paign: “To raise aware­ness, in the South Asian com­mu­nity about the im­por­tance of or­gan do­na­tion, by ed­u­cat­ing peo­ple on the or­gan trans­plant process, elim­i­nat­ing cul­tural be­liefs, myths and mis­con­cep­tions, (of­ten the main cause pre­vent­ing peo­ple reg­is­ter­ing to be­come a donor) to pro­vide ac­ces­si­ble op­por­tu­ni­ties to reg­is­ter and pos­i­tively en­cour­age donors to come for­ward.” Sunny said that it is nec­es­sary that the donor and re­cip­i­ent must be of the same blood type. Blood types are not evenly dis­trib­uted among all eth­nic groups. South Asian peo­ple are pri­mar­ily type B blood group, and the short­age of type B or­gans is due to the fact that South Asian peo­ple are less likely to be or­gan donors. To im­prove on this sit­u­a­tion, the Ji­vana Or­gan Do­na­tion So­ci­ety was es­tab­lished. It’s not just a prob­lem of the South Asian com­mu­nity. Across BC, some 500 peo­ple are on the wait list for or­gan trans­plant. That num­ber is about 4,000 across Canada, with six­teen hun­dred added to the list each year, and al­though an es­ti­mated 90% of Cana­di­ans sup­port or­gan and tis­sue do­na­tion, only 25% have made plans to do­nate. In most ju­ris­dic­tions, an or­gan donor no­tice can be at­tached to one’s driver’s li­cense, so in the event of sud­den death through ac­ci­dent, vi­able or­gans can be re­moved for trans­plant within the very short time avail­able. The key is reg­is­ter­ing to be an or­gan donor in the first place. Just as im­por­tant as the de­ci­sion to do­nate or­gans, is in­form­ing fam­ily mem­bers of that de­ci­sion, so they are aware of the wishes of the in­di­vid­ual to do­nate their or­gans. “It seems to me a shame,” said Gill, “that per­fectly good or­gans that can save some­one’s life, are be­ing buried or burned be­cause of a lack of aware­ness of the des­per­ate need for or­gan donors. We want to change that.” As well as rais­ing pub­lic aware­ness to the is­sue, the so­ci­ety is de­ter­mined to con­tact physicians, to en­cour­age them to dis­cuss the is­sue of or­gan do­na­tion with pa­tients. Po­ten­tial donors need to be as­sured that do­na­tion is only con­sid­ered af­ter all life-sav­ing ef­forts have been ex­hausted, and that it’s cer­tain the pa­tient will not sur­vive. There is never any risk that or­gan re­trieval will oc­cur ear­lier as the BC Hu­man Tis­sue Gift Act says that two doc­tors “must de­clare the death of a po­ten­tial or­gan donor, in­de­pen­dent of trans­plant.” An­other as­pect of be­ing a donor, not as well known, is that of live do­na­tion. A per­son may do­nate a por­tion of their liver while alive, and the liver will grow back within weeks. Ac­cord­ing to Do­nate Life Amer­ica, kid­neys are the most com­mon or­gans do­nated by liv­ing donors, how­ever other or­gans that can be do­nated as well in­clude a lobe of a lung, par­tial liver, par­tial pan­creas or in­tes­tine. Or­gan do­na­tion has made sig­nif­i­cant gains in sav­ing and dra­mat­i­cally im­prov­ing the lives of thou­sands of peo­ple, and med­i­cal re­search is on­go­ing to im­prove treat­ments and out­comes, as ev­i­denced by Sunny Tutt and Jazz Gill. Ev­ery­one has the power to make a de­ci­sion that may pro­vide a fi­nal life-giv­ing gift. There is no cost to reg­is­ter or be­come a donor, and all med­i­ca­tions and anti-re­jec­tion drugs for re­cip­i­ents are cov­ered by MSP and the BC Trans­plant So­ci­ety. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit the Ji­vana So­ci­ety at www.ji­vanal­ife.org.

Photo by Premdeep Saran

L-R: Vikramjit S. Rai (liver re­cip­i­ent), Bal­winder S Ma­hal (liver re­cip­i­ent), Rick Lid­der (Liver re­cip­i­ent), Man­jin­der Singh ( Ji­vana Vol­un­teer), Jag­tar Gill (liver re­cip­i­ent) Sunny Tutt (heart re­cip­i­ent), Jas­bir S. Gill (liver re­cip­i­ent), Jaspreet S. Oberoi (heart re­cip­i­ent), Harpreet Singh, Ji­vana Ad­vo­cate and event MC.

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