Relatives of Gautam Tandel woke up to a tragic Monday morning after they were informed that the 40-year-old had ended his life. What baffled the relatives was the fact that Tandel had not left behind a suicide note. This notwithstanding, they fulfilled his last wish of donating his eyes and skin following his death.
“We were surprised when he insisted that we should donate his organs if he passed away during Diwali. Those were the last words he said to me in person,” said Kalpana Patel, Tandel’s sister. A former IT professional, Tandel resided alone in a flat in Kurla (W), and allegedly hanged himself from the ceiling on Monday morning around 7.45 am. It was his neighbours who first discovered the body. They broke open the door after Tandel failed to respond to their calls and repeated knocks on the door.
“We were informed about the unfortunate incident around 8.30 am. He was rushed to the civic-run Rajawadi Hospital. We insisted that before we take his body home, we wanted to donate whatever organs that could be collected,” said Patel. While Tandel’s eyes were collected on time after contacting an NGO, the Patels had to contact at least four NGOs before they got in touch with Sion Hospital’s skin bank, almost seven hours after his death.
“His death was so sudden and unexpected, we were not prepared and struggled to get in touch with an NGO that could direct us to the right place. I approached several doctors in the casualty ward of the hospital, but they said donating his skin was not possible,” said Yogesh, another relative. It was around 3 pm when doctors from the Sion Hospital reached the morgue to collect Tandel’s skin in the nick of time. The Patels felt that posters or signboards with contact details of NGOs should have been installed at the morgue and casualty ward for spreading awareness.
Dr Kanchan S, a doctor from the burns unit of the Sion hospital, said, “Usually, we collect skin from the inner thighs, legs or dorsal side of a deceased after we are notified by our NGO within six hours of the patient’s death. After six hours the skin starts deteriorating. This is the first time we collected skin from a morgue. Generally it is done in the casualty or emergency ward, an hour or so after the patient’s death. In this case, the skin was collected just in time.”
Tested and preserved
Once collected, the skin is then processed in the microbiology department, and the blood is tested for diseases such as AIDS, hepatitis, among others. If the skin tests negative for the diseases, it is stored in a frozen state for future use. Doctors said preserved skin lasts for four to six months and is used in skin grafting.
“In homographs and allographs, the skin is used on patients to promote tissue formation or granulation so that the patient heals. The skin is applied for only three to four days and then removed,” said Kanchan. Dr Sanjay Wathore, medical officer at the post-mortem centre of the Rajawadi Hospital, said this was the first time that skin donation took place there.
“The cause of death was asphyxiation. We are glad his eyes and skin were sent for donation, which will benefit other patients,” he said. A sub inspector from the Kurla police station said a case of accidental death was registered in the matter and investigation was on to determine why Tandel took such a drastic step.