The importance of donating living kidneys was highlighted at a large gathering of around 400 people at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Chigwell, Essex for an incisive event organised jointly by BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Sanstha, the Royal Free Hospital and the Jain and Hindu Organ Donation Alliance (JHOD) charity.
Indian diaspora patients on average have to wait longer compared to the general population for an organ, due to a shortage of donors from the South Asian community in the UK and receiving a living kidney transplant is therefore a very good option for many patients.
His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, Spiritual Head of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, elaborated on the Hindu perspective via a video message: “Living organ donation is a very important form of sewa [selfless service].
“It should be done selflessly, without expecting anything in return... if we can donate an organ – usually it is the kidney – this is a very valuable and great form of sewa, by which you will receive the blessings of God.”
In the case of kidney transplant, there were 1,079 patients of South Asian heritage waiting for an organ transplant in the UK in March 2022 and there were 70 living kidney donors in the year 2021-22 from the community. It was emphasised during the gathering last week, that a real possibility for patients waiting to receive a living kidney could come from a family member or a friend.
Dr Niraj Barot, Speciality Doctor in Anaesthetics and Intensive Care, Barts Health Care Trust, and a volunteer at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Chigwell, said: “It was great for our congregation at BAPS Chigwell Mandir to hear about organ donation in a culturally relevant and appropriate manner through messages from a Hindu perspective as well as the medical and patient related aspects.
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“We hope that for someone in the future the event was inspiring to make a life-changing organ donation.”
Through various expert presentations, the importance of organ donation was explained at length, in particular from a Hindu context – that giving the gift of life, or helping others to live, is seen as a form of daan or donation.
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Kirit Modi MBE, Chair of JHOD and a kidney transplant recipient, said: “I encourage Hindus and Jains in the UK to find out more about living kidney donation and transform the lives of loved family members and friends waiting for a kidney transplant.”
Prafula Shah, Secretary of JHOD and a living kidney donor at the Royal Free, added: "I donated my kidney at Royal Free Hospital in March 2018 to help transform my niece Shakti's life. Coming from a South Asian heritage, we knew Shakti would wait a long time for her transplant. As I was not a direct match, we went through the UK Kidney Sharing Scheme, and a match was found.
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“This transplant has not only given Shakti a new lease of life, but the scheme has transformed other lives too. My lived experience has been incredibly positive, and I urge anyone facing this dilemma to explore living donation and the kidney sharing scheme.”