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Against all odds, Indians eye glory at World Transplant Games

These athletes have overcome grave health complications in their lives and now want to get glory for their country.

Against all odds, Indians eye glory at World Transplant Games
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PTI

Updated: 15 March 2023 12:44 PM GMT

Merlyn Paul had undergone kidney transplant twice by the time she was 31, Karhun Nanda had suffered a heart failure at 42, while Varun Anand was only nine when he was told about his renal failure.

However, having battled insurmountable odds, all of them are now part of the Indian contingent for the upcoming World Transplant Games and will be leaving for Perth, Australia carrying phenomenal life stories and ambitions to achieve what they couldn't before going under the knife.

Merlyn's mother donated one of her kidneys to give her a new lease of life in 2008. But her struggles didn't end there. Eight years later, in 2014, symptoms associated with CKD started to reappear and soon her kidney failed again. Merlyn, now 33, had almost given up on life when her elder sister, Maggie, came to her rescue by donating one of her kidneys.

"I got diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD) approximately 15 years back. I am a second kidney transplant recipient. Though my journey had its share of ups and downs, with the help of available treatment options, doctors, and almighty's grace, I have been able to live a wholesome life," said Merlyn, who will compete in the racewalk event.

Merlyn, who was born and brought up in Delhi but is now settled in her native Kerala, added, "I remind myself every day of the importance of an active lifestyle for the life of a long-lasting kidney transplant. My journey has also taught me that, one needs a lot of support from family, peers and community to get through CKD.

"World Transplant Games will be an opportunity for me to meet inspirational transplant recipients from all over the world who believe in creating such a community and spreading awareness about CKD."

That the Indian team is able to compete in the games is due to the effort of Organ Receiving & Giving Awareness Network (ORGAN) India, an initiative of the Parashar Foundation. Nanda, who owns a software company in Gurgaon and is the captain of the Indian contingent, used to play football at state level before he was diagnosed with a heart failure.

He suffered eight cardiac arrests on his way to the hospital after collapsing on the ground while playing a match in Delhi's Vasant Kunj. Nanda, 50, now takes 3000 milligrams of immunosuppressant medicines daily, but that has not diminished his interest for sport one bit. So what he can't play football, he has taken up golf, and will represent India in the sport in Australia.

"I started playing football when I was 12 years old and ever since I have dreamt of representing India. Unfortunately I could not make it past state level as I decided to take up engineering in college," Nanda said.

"But I did not stop playing sports. And then came the heart failure and then transplant and my new life. For a while I wasn't sure if things would be back to normal, but it's been five years and I have bounced back.

"The most amazing thing is that what I couldn't do in my last life, I can do in this life - play for my country," he added.

"My heart transplant gave me this unique opportunity to represent India at an international level in golf and I did so at the World Transplant Games 2019 in Newcastle, but I was not able to secure a medal as I had just started playing this difficult game.

"Now having been coached by some greats, I feel I have trained enough to be in a medal winning position for the next games."

Varun, a 13-year-old from Bangalore, was diagnosed with CKD when he was just nine. His parents Deepa and Anand endured the pain of watching their little one undergo painful treatments, dialysis and innumerable hospital stays.

It soon reached a point where a kidney transplant was imminent. Then Varun's mother, Deepa donated one of her kidneys to her son. Post-transplant also he had multiple struggles including NODAT (New Onset Diabetes After Transplant) and several rejection episodes to name a few. But as time passed, with good medical treatment, his "positive attitude and prayers", Varun's health improved, diabetes reversed, and he is now able to lead a relatively normal life.

As Varun grew up, he discovered a love for racquet sports. He finds these games (table tennis, badminton, and tennis) challenging and exhilarating, and so works hard to excel in these sports and to keep himself fit.

His hard work and dedication paid off when Varun was selected to represent India at the World Transplant Games, starting from April 15 to 26. In badminton, there will be Balvir Singh, who has won three medals in the previous edition, including two gold.

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