Chennai: 80 kilometers south of Chennai in the town of Thirukazhukundram (Thiru-karhu-kundram) is a story at the heart of organ donation. Set in the backdrop of coconut trees and temples, this story is of a 15-year-old Hithendra, who died almost a decade ago. On September 20 in 2008, Hithendra, the elder of two sons passed away in a motorcycle accident. "I told him to wear a helmet, but he sped off," said his mother Dr Pushpanjali who keeps his boy's memories alive in his numerous photographs, medals and citations he received. The next time she saw was at his hospital bed where he lay with several injuries, brain dead.
"My husband and I are doctors, we knew what that meant... he wouldn't wake up again but I prayed and we waited for a miracle for three days", she said as her voice wavered and she broke into tears.
"He was a bright science student who wanted to be a doctor and travel," said Hithendran's father Dr Ashokan, who took the brave call to donate his son's organs. "I wanted him to live on and enjoy life through someone else", he further added.
"The decision to donate was not tough at all, the grief of losing a son was," said Hithendra's mother Dr Pushpanjali. The couple donated Hithendran's heart, kidneys, liver, corneas and bone marrow. Chennai police ensured that a green corridor was in place to transplant his heart to Frontier LifeLine Hospital.
The 45-minute journey was made possible in only 11 minutes which saved the life of a 9-year-old Abhirami. The recipient Abhirami enjoyed life for a year post transplant like she never had but unfortunately died off a stomach ailment unrelated to the transplant.
Buoyed by the momentum caused by what is called the 'Hithendran Effect', the state of Tamil Nadu galvanised massive support for organ donation. Soon, more and more people began to enquire about organ donation and brain death.
Hithendra's father, Dr Ashokan, now addresses events to create awareness about organ donation. "I urge young people to follow traffic regulation. It may be the world to you but you are the world to your parents. It hurts me not to watch my son grow older each day but his gift of life consoles me every minute."
Now, living at the street that has been re-named after Hithendran, which means 'well-wisher' in Sanskrit, the couple continues to keep the 'Hithendran Effect' alive by motivating people to step forward and donate their organs. They still practice at a small clinic where hundreds of patients wait every day to be seen by the couple.
"It's terrible what happened to my doctor but they serve us. His dedication towards his town and its people is commendable. I hope it gives them strength to know Hithu gives life too," said a woman visiting the couple's clinic.
One organ donor can save up to 8 lives. Join the 'Pledge Your Heart' campaign, which is an initiative in support of organ donation urging people to take the pledge to donate their hearts this Valentine's Day.