The Will To Donate
For most people, to give is a difficult decision. Giving away prized possessions, cherished belongings, or even letting go of memories can often be tough.
And one of the hardest things to do is part with a bit of your own self – an organ.
Organ donation is often a subject broached upon only during crises, when people face the need for it in their own lives. But here is a man who has made it his life’s mission to spread awareness about donating a vital organ – the kidney.
Father Chiramel has led his campaign for kidney donation by setting himself as an example. In September 2009, Father Chiramel donated his kidney to Gopinathan Chakkamadathil from India, an electrician who was unable to afford a transplant.
The gesture by the clergyman was an act that went beyond his priestly duties. It was a transformational experience that showed him a new direction and a cause to dedicate his life. He was in Muscat recently to receive the Kairali Ananthapuri Award, presented by the Kerala Wing of the Indian Social Club, Muscat. Father Davis Chiramel comes across like most priests – calm and gentle. But a few minutes into his interaction, he takes his audience by surprise.
Fr Chiramel is known for his effervescent oratory that is filled with sparkling humour and wit, coloured with anecdotes and stories. But behind this highly affable demeanour is an immense passion that has led to the transformation of thousands of lives around the world.
His organisation, Kidney Federation of India (KFI) is a facilitator between kidney donors and recipients. Scores of people have registered as donors with the organisation and numerous transplants have already taken place under its auspices, the first donor being Father Chiramel himself.
The organisation acts as a kidney bank, with the aim of encouraging donation of organs, specifically kidneys, from both the living, as well as the brain dead. It also provides financial assistance to the less privileged who suffer chronic kidney ailments, in need of transplant or dialysis. KFI also works to create public awareness about kidney donation, and provides counselling on lifestyle and precautions for healthy kidneys.
Father Chiramel credits the success of his mission to the humanitarian nature of the cause, “Organ donation is an act that is over and above all man-made constraints and divisions of religion, caste, class and gender.” Father Chiramel talked about the challenges he had to overcome.
“In some instances, people were not forthcoming about the idea initially as they saw it from a religious perspective. Since it is a priest who is behind the undertaking, they were under the impression that it had a religious cause.”
But this misconception gets dispelled when people come to know that Father Chiramel donated his kidney to a Hindu recipient. Father Chiramel also worked to allay myths people harboured about failing health after kidney donation. He continues to shine as prime example of a hale and hearty donor; while Chakkamadathil, the recipient, is also a healthy man today going about his duties actively.
As further proof of his fitness, Father Chiramel skydived from 15,000ft in Lancaster in 2014, probably becoming the first kidney donor from India to do so. Father Chiramel is also the architect of another charitable venture - the Accident Care Transport Services (ACTS), established in 2000. The idea was born from a personal incident where Father Chiramel came across a road accident victim who succumbed to his injuries due to lack of timely medical response.
Father Chiramel then started ambulance services that are prompt to reach accident sites and take appropriate medical action. Having visited Oman on several occasions, Father Chiramel said he has analysed that organ donation in the sultanate is still a remote idea. “The notion of organ donation is not widespread here. I wish to propagate awareness about it and see the concept flourish.”