They say, “Determination is the key to success.” None can signify it better than the 14 bravehearts who will represent India at the World Transplant Games in Newcastle, United Kingdom, from August 17 to 23.
As the name suggests, the International Olympic Committee recognised Games bring together organ and transplant recipients and donors from over 60 countries, every two years. If the able-bodied athletes showcase their talent and skills at the Summer Olympic Games every year, there are these fighters who showcase their zest for life, triumph over adversity and evoke a dream for a better tomorrow, through their life-changing efforts.
Meet Delhi-based Vishnu Nair, who will participate in the 5,000-metre track and field event at the Newcastle Games as part of the 14-member team from India. Originally a Keralite, Vishnu had almost lost his way in life at a young age, until his mother Ambika donated one of her kidneys to save her son’s life. This was followed by a gradual loss of hearing, but Vishnu never gave up.
Today, Vishnu is an employee of the Ministry of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises and is looking to make “people aware of the significance of organ donation” through these Games.
“I will be participating in 5,000m track and field event,” says Vishnu as he prepares to leave for Newcastle. “Not only will I get a chance to represent India at the international stage and participate with fellow transplantees from all over the world, but also highlight the importance of fitness after transplant. It will also give a chance to meet other transplantees and to know their experiences about keeping fit and healthy and to promote awareness about organ transplantation.”
Sports and Studies were always a part of his life
Much like any other child his age, Vishnu had a regular childhood. Sports and studies took up most of his life until one day it all changed for him.
“I enjoyed good health as any other young man in his early 20s till February 2007,” Vishnu tells The Bridge, as he reflects on his life. “I used to play various sports like cricket, football, badminton, cycling during my school/college days and never got sick all those years. Occasionally, I used to get swelling in my legs which is normal in sports. But I had no idea that it was a symptom of kidney failure. I was shocked and my world upside down in February 2007, when I was diagnosed with Chronic Renal Failure. I was only 21 years old then.
“I was put on dialysis on an urgent basis and underwent kidney transplant in May 2007. My mother donated one of her kidneys to me. It was years of struggle, medicines, hardships, careful eating and fitness activities, as I slowly begin to recover and life returned to normal,” Vishnu recalls.
But a few years later, the youngster developed complications. “Life after kidney transplant had been much better than what it was to be on dialysis overall. Though, there is a chance of increased infection after transplant… while my kidney function started deteriorating, I also had gradual hearing loss. Recently, I underwent Cochlear Implant to regain my sense of hearing. A cochlear implant is a small, complex electronic device that helps to provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard-of-hearing,” he says.
A fighter that he is, Vishnu decided to make people aware of the importance of organ donation and hence, found out about the World Transplant Games.
Creating awareness on organ donation
Vishnu says his main aim to take part in the World Transplant Games is “not only to win” but to “make people in India aware about organ donation and encourage them to come forward to make a difference to people’s life.”
“I believe, the awareness about organ donation is very low in India and there is an urgent need to create awareness among the public. Many countries in Europe and South America has made laws which make organ donation as default option at the time of death unless one opts out specifically. A single organ donor may save up to eight people,” he says.
“In this era of medical advancements, the government should strive to create awareness through various means. It has been medically proven that a transplant can not only save life but can increase the quality of life exponentially. There is a huge demand for organs, however, due to lack of awareness, the supply is quite low. Like blood donation camps, organ donation awareness is the need of the hour.
“A healthy and fit body should be the aim of every individual. After transplant, it becomes all the more important to keep fit. I keep myself fit and healthy by engaging in various activities and following a mindful eating habit. I have been doing brisk walking/jogging for about 45 mins per day and also engage in various aerobic exercises for about 20 minutes. Recently, I took part in 5K Half Marathon in Delhi organised by YHAI and DoPT in March 2019 and successfully completed the same. I will now be travelling to Gateshead, Newcastle, to participate in World Transplant Games 2019.”
For the WTG, Vishnu will be spending money out of his own pocket and will be partly funded by ‘Light a Life – Reena Raju Foundation’, a charitable Trust founded by two-time heart transplant recipient Ms Reena Raju, who is also the team manager for India representatives at the Newcastle Games.
The World Transplant Games Federation, established in 1978, is a worldwide organisation with representation from more than 60 countries that celebrates successful transplantation and the gift of life through unique and inspiring events biennially.
“I would like to raise public awareness that health and fitness that can be achieved post-transplant and one can lead a normal life. Many countries conduct sports activities at local as well as international level. When I searched for such activities in India, I could not find any.
“Sadly, there are no such sports activities held at national or state levels by the government in our country. A sense of confidence and positive attitude prevails when one sees a person with organ transplant participate in high-level sports which subsequently creates confidence in this wonderful gift of life through organ transplants.
“Although there are various activities promoted by the government to create awareness about the differently-abled/divyaang population, there is no such thing done to create awareness about transplant awareness. I do hope that someday, government of India considers promotion and development of sports for organ donation and transplant awareness as has been done for promotion of para-athletes,” Vishnu says.