Bengalurean Anil Srivatsa found that donating a kidney changed his own life.
Five years ago, Anil Sritvasa donated a kidney to his brother, Dr Arjun Srivatsa, thus saving the life of a neurosurgeon who saves lives. Now, a trustee of Gift of Life Adventure (GOLA), Anil is currently on a mission to prove that organ donation is a win-win for everyone, by crowd-funding a driving expedition from Alaska to Argentina to create awareness on organ donation across the world. In an e-mail interaction, he answers our questions about organ donation and his adventure of a lifetime.
How did this involvement with organ donation begin?
The journey began five years ago, when I donated my kidney to my neurosurgeon brother Dr Arjun Srivatsa. Seeing him bounce back to life got me thinking about why others did not do the same for their families and friends (which explains why so many people are on dialysis).
The answer was simple. Either the love between them was questionable or that fear for their own life over-powered their love. I realised I could help dispel the fear by showing the world how active and beyond normal my life as a kidney donor has been. While I narrate my stories during the many talks I have given, I also speak about how easy and right donating your organs after death is.
How challenging is it for those who require an organ transplant to get one? What are the costs involved?
The cost of life is subjective. No doubt this is the benefit the privileged get and if the government would step in here to save the not so privileged, then things will start to look fair. Government hospitals are affordable but that’s subjective again. Private hospitals do their bit for charity too. A typical cost from start to finish will be about Rs 6-14 lakh. Liver transplants can go as high as Rs 27 lakh.
How long is this expedition going to last and what is the ultimate goal?
My goal is to drive through the entire drivable part of the world. This particular expedition will continue till the middle of February 2020.
Trips such as these are very expensive so how did you manage the funding?
I believe in the cause and put my money where my mouth is. I also been blessed with generous sponsors and individuals, who ensure I have enough to survive the long lonely journeys.
What kind of response have you got so far? How supportive are people financially for such trips?
My crowd-funding is going well but I do have anxious moments when I run out of money, which is happening now. I try and seek donations at the talks. For example, I had a talk in Toronto and collected enough money to fund my next 2,000 km. I am running out of funds now but keep my faith in people and push on. My goFund me page is active.
You have mentioned that director Nagesh Kukunoor is travelling with you on one leg of the journey? What role will Nagesh be playing? Is there is a movie coming up?
Nagesh and I met through a common friend Elahe Hiptoola and he is an ardent supporter of the cause. He is also a contributor to the crowd funding for this expedition. He is a very enthusiastic road tripper and had a month off in his schedule. So Nagesh decided to join me on this trip till Alaska. While on this trip, he is very much a part of Team GOLA and participates in all the talks along the way. His insight into the Organ Donation pitfalls are very enlightening to the audience when he speaks about it.
What are the other ventures that you have taken up to promote organ donation?
I have been involved in some legal solutions for potential donors and recipients in the High Court of Karnataka to help create some successful case laws that pertains to streamlining the Transplant approval process which is in shambles now. As time goes, there are other plans that involve post-care and funding for the under-privileged.
The family plays a crucial role and I know you have a very supportive wife. Are there any sacrifices you’ll have had to make as a family in order to ensure that this drive meets with success?
Every purpose has challenges. As a family we are supportive of each other’s goals and this includes staying away from family. We do the expeditions together when there is no conflict with college or other pressing individual schedules. There is a huge financial stress created for them as a result of my use of personal funds that very often eats into the budgets allocated for the basic normal life of a family. Here the kids step up with working outside their normal college schedule. I could not have done it without their moral, emotional and financial support.