What do Kapil Dev, Usha Uthup, Bickram Ghosh and Bhagyashree have in common?
The answer is simple – a pledge to give back to humanity. These celebrities pledged to become organ donors by joining hands with the Live King Size Die King Size foundation. Shruti Mohta, the founder, is often asked about how she deals with morbid subjects, as her line of work often puts her in contact with grief and death. Her answer is simple. Shruti smiles and says, “But I don’t deal with grief or death, I deal with life itself.” Indeed, organ donation may begin on a grim note but it ends with hope and continuity.
IcyTales had a chat with Shruti Mohta, the founder of Live King Size Die King Size foundation this National Organ Donation day. National Organ Donation day is celebrated every year on 27th November to spread awareness about organ donation and the impact it can have on the Indian healthcare system.
Q. How did you come up with the idea of Live King Size Die King Size?
Shruti Mohta: The idea was given by my daughter. It was back in 2016 when the green corridor was first introduced in Kolkata – that was big news. We were reading all about it in the newspapers. A green corridor is a special route designed to make organ donation easier. It is when all traffic signals turn green so the organ can be transferred in a minimum amount of time.
My daughter was sixteen then. There was a seventeen-year-old boy who had had a fatal motorbike accident. But even in his going, he had changed the story of five families. Three lives were saved because of his kidneys and two of his corneas gave vision to two people. So my daughter is sixteen and she is seeing this seventeen-year-old boy make a difference. She was very moved and said that this is the only way that we can actually think about going. There should be no other way. She asked me why there was such a hue and cry over this – it was 2016, after all.
I told her that there are a lot of myths surrounding this. People don’t know that they can donate their eyes and their organs. So she was moved and said, “Can we start creating awareness, Mom? We’ll do whatever it takes.” And then we reached out to the family doctors that we know.
This is also very personal for me – I have spoken about it in my Ted Talk. Science had given me my daughter and when this daughter talked about giving back to science, it made me think that life had come full circle. I have had to receive life-saving blood transfusions. When I received blood, somebody had donated blood. Somebody who never knew me. And my life was saved because someone donated that blood. That is how we started having these organ donation drives.
So before this, I was doing it on my own, but now I’ve started my own foundation. That is the Live King Size Die King Size foundation.
So I wanted to give back in a similar way because I know the fulfillment that comes from giving back.
Q. What has been the general response to organ donation up till now?
Shruti Mohta: There are people we have come across who say, “I am convinced but my family will not agree.” I have seen such families also where a grandmother had said, “Please donate my eyes after I go.” They hadn’t taken that seriously. But when she actually passed away – it was such an emotionally charged moment that the family decided to carry out the last wish of their loved ones.
The woman had spoken about her wish repeatedly to her family members, over various periods of time. There was no ambiguity and everybody knew that dadi wanted everyone to give her eyes away. So telling your family once is not important – we should keep on telling our family.
Q. What are the common misconceptions about organ donation?
Shruti Mohta: People have queries like they’re suffering from diabetes or cholesterol – can they sign the pledge form? Nobody is disqualified from signing the pledge form. Don’t prematurely disqualify yourself. Whatever health problems you have, it is for the doctors to decide. A blood sample is taken, but that is to rule out any contagious disease that could pose a threat.
Then there are also people who believe that it might be disrespectful. But I always tell them that our scriptures teach us that nothing is more important than giving. We have the concept of the ultimate giver, Daanveer Karna. There is a need to dispel these myths to spread more awareness about organ donation in India.
Q. Could you explain something about the process of organ donation?
Shruti Mohta: A routine blood test is taken, and everything is ultimately decided by the doctors. There is no age bar or health restriction. Then there is the technicality of “brain death.” Brain death is death – there is no chance of the person coming back, unlike in a coma. A person in a coma cannot donate even their eyes, but a brain-dead person can have their organs donated. It is only during brain death that one can extract solid organs.
The whole process is carried out by a team of doctors at an interval of six hours. Then we ask the family members for consent. If the family agrees, then the body is taken from the ICU to the OT and a team of specialist doctors extracts those organs which are healthy. Immediately they are transplanted.
These organs cannot be kept in a bank. For instance, eyes can be kept in an eye bank, skin can be kept in a skin bank. But these solid organs like kidneys, liver, or heart cannot be kept in a bank. They need to be transplanted immediately, hence the need for a green corridor. There is a time limit involved – kidneys within eight hours, the heart within six hours, and so on.
Q. How can people choose to be organ donors?
Shruti Mohta: To sign a pledge form, one needs to be above 18 years of age, and there is no upper age limit. There is an online pledge form that you can fill up. Two emergency contacts are asked over there. After the pledge form is received by us, we send a donor card. And the donor card has these two emergency contacts as well. In India, it is not a legal document.
It is not like if someone has signed a pledge form, that it is binding at the time of death. After one has died, it is the family’s consent that is of paramount importance. The family has to allow it. So even if someone is carrying a donor card but the family says no, it does not happen. So it is also important to let your family know about your desire
But apart from that, signing a pledge form is the easiest thing. It takes two minutes to fill the form and then you receive a donor card. Why do we ask people to fill the pledge form? If it is not a legally enforceable document, then why? Because when we actually take proactive action, we are committing to ourselves, to talk to our families. Otherwise, it’s just a thought in our minds. The pledge form is a physical reinforcement of our desire to commit.
There’s also the thing where two-year-old children donated their organs – they did not sign up for any pledge form. So it really depends on the awareness and the family’s wish that prevails at that time of death.
Suppose someone’s grandfather passes away, and they have never talked about organ donation. Even then the children and grandchildren can make that decision. On the other hand, if the elderly person had signed a form but the family says no, the organ donation will not happen.
The Live King Size Die King Size Foundation is constantly expanding its horizons by teaming up with celebrities to create more awareness. Since cadaverous organ donation is a fairly new concept in India, the strategy to unite celebrities is helpful as it brings more visibility.
“The need of the hour is more reach, as it will help educate youngsters about the merits of cadaver donations,” says Shruti “I always say that everyone must be a brand ambassador for the cause. It has a cascading effect.” She ends the interview with a smile, hopeful that more people will open up to the idea of organ donation.
If you wish to become an organ donor, pledge your support here:
Shruti Mohta Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/shruti.mohta.20/
Live King Size Die King Size Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/livekingsizediekingsize/