Covid surges, organ donation takes a hit

Doctors from Kochi talk about how Covid has made the already challenging process of organ transplantation more troublesome

Published: 13th August 2021 07:13 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th August 2021 07:13 AM   |  A+A-

Image used for representational purpose for organ donation.

Image used for representational purpose for organ donation.

By Express News Service

KOCHI: During the pandemic period, many people who are with organ failures are waiting for organ transplantation. Though the government is identifying and endorsing the need for organ donation, Covid has worsened the gap between people who need organs and reliable donations.

Many major reasons made the process of organ donation more complex during the pandemic. The spread of Covid in Kerala has posed a severe concern. Moreover, the pandemic made it tougher toidentify potential/willing donors. Additionally, both donors and recipients needed to undergo multiple Covid tests before undergoing organ transplantation. Even the team of doctors, nurses and other staff that interact with the patient needed to undergo Covid tests. This made the procedures more expensive, burdening the recipient and their family more. 

The already difficult process was made more challenging given the limited potential donors, restricted travel of medical teams, the uncertainty of the transmission of the pandemic, the Covid testing in the deceased and so on. In India, the first bilateral hand transplant was carried out in Amrita Hospital, Kochi, which was the first of its kind on January 13, 2015. Following this, the second bilateral hand transplant was done. Dr Subramania Iyer, Clinical Professor and Head, Centre for Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery / Head and Neck Surgery /Oncology, Amrita Hospitals, Kochi said, “With the successful outcome of our transplant programme, patients from several countries and different states in India have approached us for hand transplants. We have been forced to curtail our acceptance of these patients due to the demand for donours. The shortage of donors makes it difficult to offer the transplants to many needy patients.” 

He further added that currently, about seven patients are on the waiting list and eight more are under consideration to be put on the list. According to the Kerala Deceased Donor Transplant Data, only four deceased donors have donated their organs in 2021. However, around 76 deceased donors donated their organs including the heart, lungs, liver, kidney, pancreas, small intestine, hand and larynx in 2015. An organ, mainly the heart needs to be transplanted within four hours of harvesting to be effective. 

Dr Navin Mathew, Clinical Professor at the Department of Cardiology, Amrita Hospital said, “Around 10 heart transplantations were successfully done at Amrita Hospital and another 15 people are waiting for the transplantation. On the backdrop of Covid, it became very difficult to identify the willing/potential donors for transplantation.”

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