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No, It Isn't The IPL. But The World Transplant Games Certainly Need More Attention The World Transplant Games, taking place in Perth, Australia from April 15 - 21, 2023 are open to those who have received heart, lung, liver, kidney, pancreas, stem cells and bone marrow transplants.

By Kabir Singh Bhandari

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https://wtgf.org/

In a world where sports like cricket and football get so much attention in all possible forms, whether it be culturally, socially or financially, those in our immediate circles aware of something called the World Transplant Games could probably be counted on our fingertips. The Games, taking place in Perth, Australia from April 15 - 21, 2023 are open to those who have received heart, lung, liver, kidney, pancreas, stem cells and bone marrow transplants.

Two survivors who shall be representing India in these games are Dr. Arjun Srivatsa and Abhinav Singh Pangtey and ORGAN India is bringing together them and other kidney failure survivors to be part of the event. This is the story of these two survivors, how they overcame all hurdles and have prepared to bring back medals on an international platform.

Dr. Arjun Srivatsa became a neurosurgeon at the age of 30 and was one of the youngest neurosurgeons in the 90's. When a resident in neurosurgery, less sleep and lots of work often left him with headaches till one day he checked his blood pressure, which was extremely high, and his nephrologist hinted that kidney disease could be the cause of his high blood pressure. However, he never gave this a second thought and continued living his life as a neurosurgeon, an avid golfer, a runner, and an active social life animal. But things started coming down around him slowly- tiredness and reduction of his thick rough hair being some signs. Regular blood tests started showing these changes with increasing creatinine levels. A great change in diet, and abstinence from a lot of party foods and drinks helped him continue his active lifestyle. But eventually, things finally caught up with him amidst dropping haemoglobin levels.

"My brother told me, he would give me his kidney and came forward to fulfil his commitment without any hesitation. Two trips to the operation table to put in a fistula for dialysis were futile as I ran away from there with the thought of going for my transplant directly. With only energy enough to do my daily surgeries I finally planned for my surgery and agreed to go for dialysis to get myself ready for surgery. My life changed drastically post-surgery and I have my brother and his family to thank and a huge thank you to my family who stood by me through the ordeal and made sure I recover. I am looking forward to taking part in the games in Australia. This team we have now is fully geared up and motivated to do well and I guess with a structured management the team should perform well and bring back more laurels this year," Dr. Srivatsa told us.

On the other end, Abhinav Singh Pangtey told us about how he had an active lifestyle until 2018, playing hockey, cricket, and football for his school and also at the district and state-level tournaments. However, life suddenly took a turn that winter when he was driving back to his sister's home in Dehradun, when things suddenly became blurry and his vision wasn't clear. Being worried, he consulted an ophthalmologist, who told him that he had an undiagnosed blood pressure condition suggested that he see a nephrologist. After running more tests, the nephrologist found out that 90 per cent of Abhinav's kidneys were damaged and he was advised to start kidney dialysis without any delay.

"That is when life completely changed for me. After undergoing months of dialysis I realised the kind of life I was heading for. I would lie down on the bed for four-five hours doing nothing, waiting for dialysis to be over, coming back home, eating, then sleeping, and doing nothing else. This had become a weekly schedule, but I wanted to play. Tired of this I finally decided to go for a transplant and my sister donated her kidney to me in October 2019. After the surgery, I now have a normal, active lifestyle, playing cricket and football on a regular basis. I married Asha in 2021, who herself had donated a kidney to her brother," Abhinav narrated. Abhinav, who runs a construction business in his hometown in Uttarakhand, is eagerly preparing for the World Transplant Games and aims to compete in badminton, basketball, athletics and football.

However, to get to the crux of the matter, what kind of difficulties does a kidney transplant survivor face and are there any misconceptions around the disease?

"Organ failure and the entire process of transplant is very exhausting in India. I lost my mother to organ failure. It's not easy to get a kidney donor as there are several religious misconceptions related to organ donation. While the transplant was successful the process was cumbersome. It took me a year to organise the paperwork, police verification and obtaining a no-objection affidavit from the district administration. Everyone thought we were selling kidneys illegally. It was very disheartening. The documentation, which should have taken a day or so, was done in a week," Abhinav told us.

In its current state, India faces a massive shortage of organs for transplantation with a monumental gap between the number of organs required and the organs available for transplantation. India's organ donation rate is one of the lowest in the world - of two lakh kidneys required only 1,684 are available.

But there are ways to detect the problem of kidney function in time and be aware. Detection of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is usually with blood and urine test with a confirmation on ultrasound and reconfirmed with nuclear studies. Routine tests are done every year which can help with early diagnosis and help avoid it.

Dr. Srivatsa focussed our attention on the fact that India has a huge population suffering from diabetes and so proportionally a large part of the population also has kidney disease. And it is imperative that awareness grows around this problem, like in what ways CKD can affect our life.

"Health wise there is a progressive loss of energy, reduction in haemoglobin, b12 deficiency shows up, and sleeplessness. All this in turn contributes to the often reduction in working days which is a huge problem for the working class. Dialysis has made it easy to an extent with so many centres opened. Thanks to the NGO community dialysis has become affordable to a large extent yet the toll on a large population of these patients would show up financially as the expenditure for the day to day to medicine start climbing," Dr. Srivatsa said.

It is imperative that we all increase our awareness about this problem, take steps to prevent it or manage it well if afflicted with it, and certainly follow those taking part in the upcoming games and cheer for them. This certainly isn't a tournament that 'trends' daily like our IPL and cricket matches, but one which needs our attention and love.

Kabir Singh Bhandari

Entrepreneur Staff

Former Senior Assistant Editor

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