Organ donation: Surekha Joshi receives best organ transplant coordinator award

Surekha Joshi was awarded for being the best transplant coordinator in Maharashtra at the ‘10th Indian Organ Donation Day’ ceremony, organised by National Organ & Tissue Transplant Organization (NOTTO) at Vigyan Bhawan, Delhi. My Medical Mantra had recently interviewed her and spoke to her about her journey in the field of organ donation

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In conversation with Surekha Joshi, an organ transplant coordinator, we ask her what has changed on this front from the time that she started working for this cause. She has been working for the cause of organ donation since 1997. Now a 48-year-old woman, she is a transplant coordinator at Ruby Hall Clinic in Pune.

But what put her on this noble part of playing the role of a ‘saviour’ for people in need.

Recalling what made her career take her turn, Surekha said, “Previously, I was working for eye donations. I used to counsel people for donating eyes. Then I got to know about organ donation. Till that time, I was not familiar with concepts like brain-dead, but when I understood that even organs can be donated I got attracted to the idea. The concept that the organs of a brain-dead patient can give life to many people made me want to work towards that idea.”

Earlier, people never used to accept that brain death is possible. They used to ask if there are any other options still available to save the patient. But, now people are aware of what brain death means.

Surekha added, “When somebody gets a new life with the work that you do, it’s a motivating factor for me. I get motivated because of the work that we do, people get a chance to live a long and healthy life.”

She also guides her juniors and encourages them to never give up in any circumstances.

She said, “To my juniors, I always tell them, not to give up if failure comes on the way. Keep doing your work. Because your work is going to give a new life to a person suffering from end-stage organ failure. Don’t let go of any case for organ donation. Many relatives may say no, but the number of donations will increase only when you will pursue it relentlessly.”

She is also the  recipient of the best transplant coordinator award by NOTTO for the year 2016.

When asked about her one experience which she can never forget while doing her duty as a transplant coordinator, she said, “In 2014, my own brother had died. In the same year, I came across a case in which the boy was of the same age as my deceased brother. When I could convince his family for organ donation, I felt a sense of fulfilment. I knew that whatever little I can contribute through my work for society is for a good cause.”

She mentioned that people are a lot more aware now than earlier, “In the late ’90s, brain-dead patient’s relatives used to think that you are killing the patient when you are taking their organs. People were unaware of such an extent. But, the scenario has definitely changed. People have become a lot more aware now.”

Surekha stated that she people ask her several questions related to organ donation and there are still few things people need to be made aware of.

She informed, “We do get questions like do you give these organs just for the rich people or do you also give them to poor. They also take doubt on what if there is the misuse of organs that we donate. We then explain to them the entire legal procedure. They also demand money saying that we take money from those who get organs. Then we explain to them that it is a donation and so it should be done voluntarily.”

She also said that there few changes are needed to improve the relationship between organ transplant coordinators and intensivists at the hospital.

While suggesting some of the reforms in the whole process of organ donation and transplant she said, “The responsibility of the coordinators should be defined. There should be good relations between intensivist and coordinator. Even coordinators should be taken for daily ward rounds along with intensivists. This will help in building good relations with the patient’s relatives.”