“We wanted our son’s heart to keep beating after his death, to give someone else life, but it will never happen.” The father who donated his son’s liver, kidney, and eyes after he died in a road mishap has an overwhelming remorse: that he could not donate his heart “because Mumbai does not have experienced hands to make it happen”. Last Saturday, Kunal Ashok Chheda (26), a Dombivli resident, was on his way to help rescue a leopard that had entered the premises of a Mulund school. When he came to know the forest department had set a trap to bell the cat, he turned back his bike to go home. But he was never to reach.
“He called us around 11.45 pm to tell us he would reach home by 12.30 am. But he never did,” his mother said. While returning home via the Eastern Express Highway, Kunal met with an accident near Kalwa. He wasn’t wearing a helmet. Passers-by and the traffic police rushed him to Thane civil hospital. Cops tried to contact Kunal’s father, Ashok, but his number was not stored in Kunal’s mobile. Around 4.30 am, the family contacted one of his friends and learnt of the accident.
At the hospital, his family members were told that Kunal - who had returned to Mumbai after quitting a human resources job in Kolhapur not more than a month ago - had suffered serious head injuries and was unconscious. “We decided to shift him to Jupiter hospital, where doctors said he was in a coma, and there was a slim chance of his staying alive. Since I wanted my son to be remain alive in some way, we decided to donate his organs,” Ashok said.
While he was in coma, doctors successfully transplanted his organs. By Friday afternoon, his liver, eyes and kidneys were donated. “But doctors told us that doing a heart transplant was not possible,” he said. He is comforted by the knowledge that some of his son’s organs will help others live a healthy life. But the fact that his heart could not bring life to someone else is weighing him down. “It is unfortunate that a city like Mumbai does not have the expertise or the infrastructure for heart transplantation. The government should seriously look into this and do the needful.” His father has also appealed to the government to make it mandatory for two-wheeler riders to wear helmet. “People shouldn’t have to lose their loved ones the way we lost Kunal,” he said. He asked for strict action against those not wearing helmets.
Dr Suleman Merchant, acting dean of Sion hospital, said, “Transplant of heart is only done in Delhi and Chennai, and it is very rare. In Mumbai, there is no provision for such surgery.” Speaking to MiD DAY, Sanjay Oak, dean of KEM, said, “There is no facility for heart transplant in Mumbai because of lack of infrastructure.”