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Father – Son: Each other’s saviors

An unemployed alcoholic gives up drinking to become a liver donor for his son who in addition to a new liver gets back a responsible loving dad saved from doom that alcohol had led him to  

The doctors measuring tape doubled up as a tailor’s tape for taking measurements for Vinay’s clothes. He was being discharged and his doctors, along with giving him a new liver, wanted to dress him up in new clothes. “Please don’t bring anything in red”, he whispered in his mother’s ear to convey to his doctor who was now off from the ward round to proceed for the mall round shopping for Vinay.

Some people evoke sympathy, others evoke empathy. Vinay was one who evoked pure love and deep affection. He was too blessed to be sympathized with.  Despite his illness, there was never a moment where you could catch him awake without a smile on his face. Ever radiant, ever beaming, ever content, the gleam in his eyes never gave away his tale of suffering.

All of 11 years, he had been in and out of hospitals multiple times over in the last 4 years. The first episode had occurred when he was barely 3 years of age. These repeated episodes of fever, jaundice, pain abdomen and vomitings brought him from a small village near Jalandhar to Ludhaina and then to the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research(PGIMER), Chandigarh in his quest for a cure. A diagnosis  of primary  sclerosing cholangitis was arrived at, a condition in which the draining channels for bile become beaded and narrowed leading to bile accumulation in the liver and subsequent tissue damage. With the non complaining temperament that he had, Vinay patiently endured 7  endoscopic attempts by his doctors to put in a stent across his main blockage. As a last resort, an external diversion was created that drained his bile into a bag attached with a tubing to his gall bladder.

To live with a bag attached, liver already damaged and shrunken, no school, no play – was this to be Vinay’s fate? He deserved better and the universe ensured he got his due.

He needed a liver transplant, that was his only chance of a life worth living. An alcoholic out of work father, 2 elder school going sisters, a mother who supported the family with her peon’s salary that barely made both ends meet…. Where were the means to salvage Vinay?

His doctors needn’t have despaired. The entire universe had conspired to help Vinay. The liver transplant team at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital offered a free transplant in which the bed charges and fees would be waived off with the patient needing to pay only for medicines and consumables. That would cut the cost to about half (6 lacs), but that too was beyond their means. In true community spirit, his village was like an extended family and the panchayat took on the challenge to raise money. A public appeal was issued, several rounds of Kabaddi matches were organized to raise funds and sanctions were obtained from the Punjab Chief Minister’s relief fund. Rupees one lac each were donated by the kind parents of 2 patients.  Soon the required sum was in the kitty.

With the funds arranged, evaluation of the mother as a donor was started. After all the positivity, no one was prepared for this setback – even though she had no symptoms, her main vessel supplying the liver was found to be blocked making her unfit to donate. Both the sisters were not yet adults. Tears rolled down her eyes as she foresaw all her efforts go down the drain.

Little did she realize, God had grander plans for her. A new life awaited not only her son but also her husband whom this challenge reformed completely. To be able to donate a part of his liver, he would have to abstain from alcohol for at least 3 months. Post donor surgery, if that happened, alcohol would be taboo as it would harm his regenerating liver. Love for his son proved stronger than the love for alcohol. What years of coercing and pleading by his wife and children could not achieve, the desire to see his son live did. Not a drop of alcohol went down his throat in the next 3 months and he was then cleared as a donor by his surgeons.

What could go wrong with Vinay after having surmounted odds of such gravity? All went well, Vinay went home looking dapper in his new clothes. He now goes to school, his father – now a teetotaler earns reasonably as a carpenter, his mother and sisters have never been happier and the village panchayat never felt prouder. From the greatest adversities emerge the greatest success stories, such are life’s ways!

   Clinical perspective:

Vinay and his family had suffered for almost 8 years due to his illness. Recurring at progressively decreasing intervals ever since he was three, for the last 4 years he had been ill every 2-3 months. By the time he was diagnosed, he already had portal hypertension. As stenting had failed despite repeated attempts, a cholecystostomy had been done that was an open channel for infection and also tended to block.

Vinay’s liver transplant was a success- medically and socially. He became a model for other patients from the economically deprived strata of society, bridging them from despair to hope.

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Verified By Dr Smita Malhotra
Consultant Pediatric Gastroenterologist & Hepatologist, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital
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