Surrey man turns to India for transplant donor after years waiting in B.C. (w/ video)

Published: July 9, 2013

LARISSA CAHUTE
VANCOUVER DESI

After three years on the wait-list for a new kidney, Surrey’s AJ Thind feels he’s exhausted all his options in British Columbia — so he’s looking to India instead.

The 44-year-old was diagnosed with kidney failure in 2003 and for the past three years he’s been spending more than 20 gruelling hours a week strapped to noisy dialysis machines at Surrey Memorial Hospital.

The time-consuming and tiring treatment has cut his work hours in half and he can barely even travel to the U.S. to visit his two children.

“It’s like there’s this leash on me,” he said.

The only thing that could make his life “completely normal again” is a kidney transplant — a South Asian donor his most-likely match, but with incredibly low organ donation rates among B.C.’s South Asian community, Thind has been told he could wait up to ten years.

AJ Thind during his overnight dialysis at Surrey Memorial. He’s in desperate need for a kidney donor. Mark van Manen/PNG

He’s already turned to family, friends and social networks for potential donors without any luck, so his father has started travelling to India to scout potential donors among family and friends there.

The desperate search for an out-of-country donor is not uncommon among local South Asians — in 2012 six out of 83 live donors in B.C. came from out of country.

While doctors support it if the patient finds the right match, it’s a “tricky” process, according to St. Paul’s Hospital nephrologist, Dr. Jagbir Gill.

“The biggest hurdle to be honest has been Immigration — so it’s a challenge,” he said. “We will provide letters and we will explain the scenario … but it is hit and miss.”

According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, when someone applies for a temporary resident visa (TRV) for the purpose of organ donation, they must prove they’re a match for the patient, the medical costs are covered and that the sale of organs isn’t taking place. They’ll also have to fit all the regular criteria for a TRV.

“The whole process can take a good year sometimes,” said Gill, adding that if the government sees them as an immigration risk, it’s out of the doctors’ hands.

While he believes strict guidelines are important, more dialogue and understanding for legitimate cases would benefit not only the Canadian in need, but also the health care system.

“Transplantation quite frankly saves money to the system because it takes people off of dialysis, which is a much more expensive form of therapy,” said Gill.

It also keeps patients away from the dangerous option of going out of country for the surgery, which is often done illegally in black markets and has a higher risk of infection and rejection.

“If someone goes to India and they’re buying an organ that’s an illegal act – they’re not going to a renowned institution … they’re going to a group of people who are breaking the law,” said Gill. “It’s the poorest segment of the population that are selling their kidney in those countries and the screening is very questionable.”

Yet nearly 100 people from B.C. have done this in the last ten years, he said.

Thind is constantly reviewing the alternatives, desperately searching for a way out of his three nights a week spent at SMH on overnight dialysis — a new program aimed at improving patient lifestyle, so they sleep during the session instead of giving up their days to treatment.

Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays Thind heads to the renal dialysis unit, overnight bag in tow, sets up his hospital bed to mimic the comforts of home — hooking up his phone, a blanket — before his already swollen veins get poked by the nurse’s “giant needles” as he’s hooked up to the humming and beeping dialysis machine from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Even if he manages to catch some shut-eye under the fluorescent lights and ambient noise, the dialysis still makes him “sluggish.”

While he anxiously and painfully waits for a new kidney — either from India or B.C. — he’s worried he’ll be near 60 by the time he gets one.

“Your twenties you’re kind of learning about life experiences and in your forties you enjoy it and in your fifties, sixties – you’re kind of looking towards … helping your children, your family. Like your golden years,” he said. “I just feel like I’ll have missed most of that.”

 

Related story:

 

Doctors desperate for organ donations — especially among ethnic minorities in B.C. 

AJ Thind during his overnight dialysis at Surrey Memorial. He’s in desperate need for a kidney donor. Here Thind shows off the very large swallow lumps in his arm from the many injections he regularly gets in hospital. Mark van Manen/PNG

With 400 people in British Columbia desperately waiting for a kidney transplant, doctors and dialysis patients alike are desperately trying to raise awareness of organ donation.

According to a study released in the June issue of the medical journal, Transplantation, ethnic minorities are least likely to donate organs — 89 per cent of B.C. organ donors were Caucasian, with South Asians making up a mere 1.08 per cent.

“The reality is in certain cultural groups, diseases have a stigma attached to it,” said Dr Jagbir Gill, nephrologist at St. Paul’s Hospital. “It’s a lot for people to have to put their disease out there to have to put out the fact that they need a transplant.”

It’s believed much of the hesitation has to do with lack of awareness as well.

“Donating a kidney is not associated with death,” said Gill. “People’s risk of developing kidney disease doesn’t change by donating a kidney.”

“We live without our appendix, without our gall bladder and people don’t have any long term effects from it.”

Potential donors undergo a number of tests to ensure it’s safe to donate.

And if time or money is an issue, the Kidney Foundation of Canada has a reimbursement program for those facing financial barriers, which covers hospital expenses and a certain amount of travel and loss of income.

According to Gill, organ donor patients spend about two days in hospital and require up to 4 weeks off work (eight weeks for heavy work).

“Most people feel quite good by the end of the first month,” he said.

lcahute@theprovince.com
twitter.com/larissacahute

 


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,





Featured

GANGS-BC-SURREY-AUSTRALIA

Australian co-accused of slain gangster Sukh Dhak sentenced to 3 years in prison

KEITH FRASER VANCOUVER DESI A co-accused of slain gangster Sukh Dhak was on Friday sentenced to three years in prison for his part in a…
Continue Reading »

Dr Cabbie

Indo Canadian comedy Dr. Cabbie making its way to the small screen

LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI This year’s Indo Canadian box-office hit comedy Dr. Cabbie is making its way to the small screen. Toronto-based Entertainment One, alongside…
Continue Reading »

desi fun food collectibles

Surrey Night Market will be ‘bigger and better’ in 2015, say organizers

LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI The Surrey Night Market is set to return for its second season next spring “bigger and better” than its inaugural year,…
Continue Reading »

LOCAL NEWS

Social justice found online voice in 2014: Experts say

By Michelle McQuigge THE CANADIAN PRESS TORONTO — Celebrity watchers and armchair coaches may have produced the most social media chatter over the past 12…
Continue Reading »

GANGS-BC-SURREY-AUSTRALIA

Australian co-accused of slain gangster Sukh Dhak sentenced to 3 years in prison

KEITH FRASER VANCOUVER DESI A co-accused of slain gangster Sukh Dhak was on Friday sentenced to three years in prison for his part in a…
Continue Reading »

Dr Cabbie

Indo Canadian comedy Dr. Cabbie making its way to the small screen

LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI This year’s Indo Canadian box-office hit comedy Dr. Cabbie is making its way to the small screen. Toronto-based Entertainment One, alongside…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Avoiding relapse, inviting happiness over the Holiday Season

NIRMALA RANIGA VANCOUVER DESI The holiday season can be an especially challenging time for individuals in recovery from addictive behaviours. Holiday parties and celebrations with…
Continue Reading »

Vagina Monologues

Sex workers from India’s largest red light area seek American feminist Eve Ensler’s help

IANS Kolkata – American activist and playwright Eve Ensler Friday met sex workers in Kolkata’s Sonagachi, one of Asia’s largest red light areas, who sought…
Continue Reading »

Miss World

Bikini round removed from Miss World pageant

IANS London – The Miss World contest, which has been an annual feature since 1951, will no longer feature a swimsuit round in their competition,…
Continue Reading »

sexi desi babes

Gallery: Wait for India’s Kingfisher Calendar Girl 2015 is almost over

VANCOUVER DESI The Hunt for the Kingfisher Calendar Girl 2015 is almost over. An Indian lifestyle channel will air the grand finale of the reality…
Continue Reading »

Taliban attack

Pakistani student who skipped school on the day of Taliban rampage ‘isn’t talking to anyone’

VANCOUVER DESI A 15-year-old student of Pakistan’s Army Public School  – which was bombed by the Taliban this week, killing 141 people, of which 132…
Continue Reading »


Bollywood Latest

Priyanka Chopra

Gallery: Stars come together for another big fat Bollywood wedding

VANCOUVER DESI After Salman Khan’s sister Arpita Khan’s wedding with businessman Aayush Sharma last month, Bollywood stars gathered for another high-profile Bollywood wedding that turned…
Continue Reading »

BOLLYWOOD

Film Review: Aamir Khan’s PK unconventionally outstanding

TROY REBEIRO IANS Film: “PK”; Cast: Aamir Khan, Anushka Sharma, Sushant Singh Rajput, Saurabh Shukla, Boman Irani, Parikshat Shahni; Director: Rajkumar Hirani; Rating: *** 1/2…
Continue Reading »

Bollywood jodis-ex lovers

Bollywood’s ex-flames Shahid Kapoor, Kareena to work together in ‘Udta Punjab’?

IANS Mumbai – Actor Shahid Kapoor, who once dated actress Kareena Kapoor, has said that he has never refused to work with the latter and…
Continue Reading »