Kidney transplant ‘celebrity’
When Bhargav Turaga was approached about having his kidney transplant at St. Joseph’s Hospital live-streamed on social media, the IT worker immediately agreed.
So did his donor, his wife NagaMani (Naga) Turaga — who also happens to work in information technology.
But Bhargav, 45, whose kidneys are starting to shut down, had no idea it would make him a celebrity so fast.
St. Joe’s is live-streaming his transplant surgery Wednesday to raise awareness about kidney disease and the importance of organ donation. On Tuesday evening Bhargav was walking down to the hospital lobby when a stranger wished him good luck with the transplant.
“Just now, a few minutes back, someone said ‘I recognize your face. You became a celebrated man. Are you the one going for transplant surgery tomorrow,’” Bhargav said with a laugh as he talked about the encounter. “I was not aware I would become a celebrity.”
Bhargav and Naga, 44, have given several interviews and have had their names and faces all over St. Joe’s social media platforms and website. But the Milton couple is more than happy to oblige, because it means their story will give insights to medical students and the public about kidney disease and organ donations and transplants.
All the attention is also helping Bhargav keep his mind off the actual surgery. “I’m a nervous guy,” he admits readily, adding his wife is much braver. “All these busy things going on make me not think about it.”
Publicity around the live-streaming has also given him comforting comments via Facebook from past kidney transplant recipients.
“People are praising the team here. People are wishing me good luck and telling me I’m in good hands. That gives me a lot of assurances.”
St. Joe’s spokesperson Agnes Bongers said it’s the first kidney transplant live-streaming at a Canadian hospital as far as they know.
The public is invited to ask questions during the live-streaming through Facebook and have them answered in real time by the medical team or one of two surgeons in the operating room.
Bhargav calls it a good plan.
“Everything is social media today. This is the right platform. People who want immediate information can get it.”
Naga agrees: “We are trying to help the public with useful information. Kidney disease is basically a slow poison. People don’t consider how much of a problem this is.”
Besides sharing a life with him, she now gets to share an organ with him, she adds with a laugh. The couple immigrated to Canada from India 13 years ago. The future with their two teenaged daughters, 16 and 13, is their motivation for the transplant.
Dr. Darrin Treleaven, St. Joe’s transplantation director, calls the live-streaming a unique opportunity to help people understand why this is such a miracle.
“We want to shine a light on living kidney donations and the selflessness that goes into being a living donor,” he said, praising the Turagas for helping raise awareness.
Bhargav Turaga will receive one of his wife Naga’s kidneys during a live-stream transplant Wednesday afternoon.