This holiday season there will be joy, intimacy, and affection around many family dinner tables. But for some families it will be a difficult time with little laughter. They know that next year a family member may be missing. They are waiting for the donation of a kidney, heart or other vital organ to keep a loved one alive. But it may not arrive in time. So here’s a story of compassion from a man who gave the ultimate gift to a perfect stranger.
I recently came across an article written by Naazneen Karmali, Asia Wealth Editor and India Editor for Forbes Asia. She relates the story of a wealthy Indian tycoon, Kochouseph Chittilappilly. He acknowledged that, as his 60th birthday approached, life had been very good to him. He felt compelled to give something back to society. He chose one of his kidneys.
No doubt his family worried that he was risking his own life to save a trucker with whom he had no family ties. But following his 6oth birthday he underwent a four hour operation to remove one of his kidneys.
In North America several billionaires, such as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, are giving away huge amounts of their fortunes to various charities. Chittilappilly is going one step further, giving away one-third of his fortune during his lifetime, and also one of his kidneys. His generosity has not gone unnoticed in India and elsewhere.
According to Naazneen Karmali the donation of organs has become a compelling issue in India. But there are still major problems. For instance, 200,000 people seek transplants every year. But there are only 7,500 selfless donors. This has resulted in an illegal trade where poor families sell their organs to the wealthy. Since 1994 this has been forbidden, but is still happening, partly because of religious and cultural taboos that prevent organ donation after death.
Karmali describes Chittilappilly as a “soft-spoken man.” On one of his office walls is a framed quote that reads, “I’m gonna make the rest of my life the best of my life.” And he admits that his philanthropy arrived late in life. He says his concern used to be “business, business, business.” But he also has a sense of humour. He laughs that one day a police officer visited his home to see if he was being paid for his kidney.
In North America we often talk about brotherly love. But we have a tendency to ignore the many who are dying needlessly. In Canada alone, one person dies every 30 hours while waiting for an organ transplant. So how can we stop these deaths?
It’s been many years since I have written about this problem. But I believe it is a shameful fact that some people have to shop for organs in other countries. And that every day of the year people with sound organs are being buried. These could be utilized by those in need to stay alive.
I fully understand that there are some who, for religious or other reasons, do not want to donate an organ. But I believe the majority of North Americans are willing to depart this planet minus an organ if it would save a life.
Years ago I pleaded with religious leaders to preach a sermon supporting organ donation. I ask them again to remind their flocks of this humanitarian need. Hopefully they would relate this story of Kochouseph Chittilappilly who gave a great gift to a stranger.
This is 45th year I have had the pleasure of wishing readers a happy, healthy and safe holiday season.
Dr. W. Gifford-Jones can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.