Skintillating! 100-year-old is Mumbai's oldest skin donor

100-year-old Powai resident Lalitaben Shah's son decided to donate her skin after she passed away; the previous oldest donor was a 92-year-old

A 100-year-old woman from Powai, has become the oldest skin donor from the city, after her family decided to donate it after her death. Lalitaben Shah’s donation has given a new lease of life to many burn patients.

Mahesh Shah holds up a picture of his mother. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
Mahesh Shah holds up a picture of his mother. Pic/Datta Kumbhar

“By God's grace, she lived for 100 years. She passed away just a month after her 100th birthday. She had a peaceful death, without any suffering. To show our gratitude to God, we decided to donate her skin to help needy people,” said Mahesh Shah (72), her son.

Lalitaben, from Saurashtra, Gujarat, resided with her son in Powai. She passed away on May 27, and he decided to donate her skin when a relative informed him about this donation. They contacted Airoli Skin Bank, the biggest skin bank in Mumbai. Last year, the oldest skin donor was recorded at the only other skin bank in the city, Sion Skin Bank, when a 92-year-old woman’s skin was donated.

“Every year, hundreds of people die due to burns. Through this small initiative, we can save lives of other people. We hear a lot about organ transplant, but there is a lot less awareness about skin donations,” said Mahesh.

People feel that aged people can't donate skin after death as it gets wrinkles and becomes lax with age.

“People need to learn from this donation. The skin of a 100-year-old woman can be used for skin grafting. The kin of younger people should also think of skin donations in case of death. Skin donation, irrespective of the donor’s age, can save so many lives,” said Dr Sunil Keswani, director of the Airoli Skin Bank.

Skin can only be taken after the death of a person. Skin is removed from the back, legs and hands that generally have plain texture without any undulation that doesn't lead to any deformation in the body.

“Unlike other organ transplantation, skin transplantation is not permanent. When we transplant skin on a patient, it helps in better healing of the burns as it controls the spread of infection but later, when the wounds heal, new skin is created and the transplanted skin peels off,” said Dr Meena Kumar, former head of surgery department who was also responsible of skin bank at the Sion hospital.

Skin donation
As per European guidelines, the maximum age limit for skin donation should be 70-years of age but in Mumbai due to less donors, the skin banks get donations of all age groups.

“The number of skin donors is far less in comparison to the need of the patients. So, to meet the demand, we don't refuse any donation even if the donors are above 80-years-old when we get calls. But it also depends on the quality of the skin of the donor. If the skin becomes very lax or there is less body mass then retrieving skin becomes very tough,” said Dr Manoj Kumar Ahire, the head of the skin bank at Sion Hospital.

Benefits of skin donation
1. It controls protein and fluid loss from wounds.
2. It improves nutritional status.
3. It control wound infection, as it doesn't allow infection to penetrate into the wounds.
4. Provides immediate relief from pain.

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