On April 3, 2014, Father Davis Chiramel dived from 15,000 feet. He came down at a speed of 180 km per hour. Anything could have happened to a first-timer like him. He felt as if someone was pushing him down harder. But the risks and the fears of tandem skydiving (where the student is connected to a harness attached to the instructor) disappeared before the noble cause he has undertaken.
Fifty-four-years old, Fr Davis might be the first kidney donor from India who performed this daring act in Lancaster, United Kingdom, to create awareness among the public about kidney donation.
“Many tried to dissuade me from it and asked what if I get a heart attack when I am in the sky,” he says. “But I told them things are not certain even on the ground, so why the worry. But it was indeed a risky act, much more dangerous than donating a kidney.”
Come September and the philanthropist priest will embark on another brave mission—a journey called ‘Ma..Nishada’ which embodies the message—‘No violence, No rape, No alcohol and No suicide’.
Around 75,000 people have committed suicide in Kerala in the past 10 years. “In many places, the doors of those rooms where a suicide took place have been locked, giving way to several ghost stories,” says Fr Davis. “I will visit these places and will spend one night in the room. If there is a ghost lurking, let him or her find me.”
But then Fr Davis is just as famous for his acts of courage as he is for his compassion. Twenty-two days after he donated his kidney to a complete stranger in 2009, he travelled from Kasargode in the northern end of the state to Thiruvananthapuram at the southern end to visit hospitals and speak on kidney donations. The idea was to reach out to people personally and inspire them through his example—“If I can do it, so can you.”
Fr Davis believes that the tours he undertook have brought about a drastic change in the attitude of the people. “When it comes to organ donation, things were not as smooth as it is today,” he says. “But when I go in front of the people, they see a donor in flesh and blood. Above all, he is hail and healthy. It has worked well.” Thanks to his efforts, so far five-and-a-half lakh people have pledged their organs.
However, it was not a conscious decision on the part of Fr Davis to work towards this cause. A committee had been formed to collect money to help Gopinath of Vadanappally, Thrissur, who had a kidney ailment. “And they made me its patron,” says Fr Davis. “The money was collected, but there was no kidney to transplant. It was then I decided to donate mine. But everybody was against it. The awareness was scant then.”
Meanwhile, in 2009, Fr Davis set up the Kidney Federation of India (KFI) at Thrissur. In a matter of five years, his name as well as the KFI has become synonymous with organ donation in Kerala.
Acknowledging his contribution, the National Kidney Foundation, America, gave an honorary membership to Fr Davis, making him the first Indian to get it.
He has also travelled to the UK and US and spoke to the Malayalees there. “Many did not know that we could not use a foreign kidney for medical reasons,” says Fr Davis. “Hence if any ailments afflicted them, they could be helped only by their fellow people there.”
Prior to his donation campaign, Fr Davis had set up an institution in Thrissur called Accident Care and Transport Service. Today it has 15 ambulances, 30,000 volunteers and 15 branches. To-date it has admitted and treated two-and-a-half lakh people.
■ In 2009, Father Davis set up the Kidney Federation of India at Thrissur
■ Thanks to his campaign across Kerala, so far five-and-a-half lakh people have pledged their organs
■ Acknowledging his contribution, the National Kidney Foundation, America, gave an honorary membership to Fr Davis, making him the first Indian to get it.
■ His Accident Care and Transport Service in Thrissur has 15 ambulances, 30,000 volunteers and 15 branches. To-date it has treated two-and-a-half lakh people.