09/22/2009, 00.00
INDIA

Catholic priest donates kidney to save Hindu man

by Nirmala Carvalho
In Kerala, Father Chiramel offers one of his kidneys to an unknown recipient. The priest said he was inspired by the ‘Year for Priest’. “For me donating an organ is a unique and privileged opportunity to share in Christ’s suffering.”

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Fr Davis Chiramel, a 49-year-old Catholic priest from Kerala, donated one of his kidneys to a complete stranger. The clergyman is parish priest at St Francis Xavier Church in Vadanapally (Kerala). Earlier this year he decided to help a Hindu father of two, a complete stranger who was suffering from renal failure. 

Father Chiramel is also the general secretary of the Accident Care and Transport Services (ACTS) in Thrissur. On 15 February, volunteers in the organisation were at his church. They talked about a Hindu man named Gopinath who had suffered renal failure. Because of that, he was being  forced to go to the Jubilee Mission Hospital in Thrissur every three days for dialysis treatment. He needed a transplant but the volunteers did not know how to go about getting one, suggesting that it might cost a million rupees (US$ 21,000), but above all wondering how they could find a donor. In India, there is one donor per million.

When Father Chiramel heard the ACTS volunteers discuss the matter, he rebuked them because “I realised they were talking about finding someone from whom to buy a kidney.”

In India as in Pakistan and Nepal, organ trafficking, especially in kidneys, is big business. Indian authorities are hard pressed to stop such commerce that sees the poor sell their organs for little money whilst rich but sick people unscrupulously pay a lot to improve their health.

Given the situation, Father Chiramel decided to donate the organ himself. Hospital tests followed to determine computability; administrative steps began to get the necessary authorisation.

The clergyman told AsiaNews that for him “donating a kidney was a blessing, which began in February. However, I only realised what I was doing on 19 June. On that day the Pope opened the ‘Year for Priests’ and I was in the hospital for the necessary tests for the transplant. Everything happened in an instant. I realised that I had been blessed with the possibility of offering my body to save a man.”

Father Chiramel uses words like “joy”, “gift” and “treasure” to describe what happened to him. “Christ is the source and origin of every good action; it is He who gives the strength and courage to act,” the priest said. “I never thought I could donate my kidney, even less to a total stranger.”

Gopinath and Father Chiramel will meet for the first time on 30 September, when the transplant will be performed at the Lakeshore Hospital in Kochi. For the clergyman, this will be the fulfillment of something that “changed my life.”

“Christ gives of himself every day for the world’s salvation. In the Mass, priests offer the sacrifice of His body and His blood, but they do it without sharing in our Lord’s pain and suffering,” Father Chiramel said. “For me the possibility of donating an organ to someone I did not know is a unique and privileged opportunity to share in Christ’s suffering.”

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