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A heart dedicated to lighting lives

FROM not knowing anything about organ transplant and donation, 29-year-old Bangalorean Reena Raju has become a fierce proponent of the cause.

It was exactly a year ago when Reena underwent a heart transplant, the first in the State. Ever since, she has been advocating organ donation to relatives of brain-dead patients. Part of a four-member band, Reena is organising ‘Light a Life’ concert, which is dedicated to her donor ‘angel’, a brain-dead patient whose heart was transplanted to her, at the Good Shepherd auditorium on November 20.

Reena suffered from dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition that weakens and enlarges the heart, and underwent surgery in Chennai. Today, she is at the peak of her energy levels, what with her heart functioning 65 per cent; a normal heart functions 50-70 per cent, she claimed.

Learning that there were others not as lucky as her and still waiting, Reena wanted to help, given that on any day there are at least five brain-dead cases in Bangalore, yet not even in 0.05 per cent of the cases are organs donated.

While she began counselling people awaiting transplant –– there are 27 in the waiting list in Karnataka –– it was not enough. That’s when the idea of forming ‘Light a Life’ germinated. The 13-member group, including her twin sister and fiance, have in their own way tried creating awareness and encouraging people to pledge their organs.

Incidentally, Reena has already contributed to the cause, as her doctor informed that her heart’s valves have been preserved, which can help someone. “My heart was not wasted,” she says cheerfully.

The biggest challenge they learnt was the poor awareness among relatives about cadaver transplants and myths associated with it. The group also plans to contact the government to make organ donation mandatory and ask people to carry donor cards.

The group participated in the Sunfeast marathon in May and made a documentary in Kannada and English that was uploaded on YouTube to create awareness. Reena also had a chance to meet former US vice president Al Gore at the recently held World Congress World Society of Cardiothoracic Surgeons in Chennai.

In June, a fan page in Facebook ‘Donate organ and save lives’ was also created, which already has 219 members.

(Published in Deccan Herald)

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