Kid­ney trans­plant ‘celebrity’

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - CARMELA FRAGOMENI cfragomeni@thes­pec.com 905-526-3392 | @Car­matTheSpec

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.

ST. JOSEPH’S HEALTHCARE PHOTO

Bhar­gav Turaga will re­ceive one of his wife Naga’s kid­neys dur­ing a live-stream trans­plant Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon.

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