Second Go: First-hand account of a second innings
The story needs to be told and needs to be heard or read because of the boon it was to a survivor, of a legacy that everyone can give and everyone can benefit from.
Second Go is a book about ebbing and soaring of hopes, it's a book about a gift of life to a family, a mother, a daughter and a father. In Radhika's own words in one of her blogs, 'Anyone reading this, who has the will and the desire to help Asra (while talking about another liver transplant expectant), can answer her call for appeal, and thank God, 'It's not me.' It is a reality that any one of us can face and it's about a decision we need to make not just for self preservation but for a world only we can help survive.
It was a second go for me when I left my cushy corporate job to test waters as a writer and stumbled into a few dark spots. I had reached out to Radhika on LinkedIn after having followed her for her distinct, compelling and stirring takes on life. Radhika gave me the opportunity to explore my own creativity and patiently coached me. We never really met but had telephonic conversations and i moved to another work opportunity. I continued to follow her on linkedIn, and learnt of her promotion of Organ Donation and immediately warmed to the idea that I always believed myself. I picked up the phone on her again and learnt something I didn't want to, of her struggle with a cancerous liver but fortunately she won that strife. Second Go is a pulsating account of her fight with not just the health demon but several others that we close our eyes to.
Indian statistics on organ donation will astound you, there is such a useless waste of life because of sheer negligence. According to a study published by NDTV, approximately 5 lakh people die in India every year due to lack of organs, of which 1 lakh die due to liver diseases, and only 1% of liver disease patients are the fortunate recipients of a healthy liver. According to Fortis Organ Retrieval and Transplant, each individual can save up to 7 lives by donating organs. And there are 8-10 brain-dead potential donors at any given time in ICUs of any major city.
The numbers that just don't add up
With stats like that the life expectancy in India has a lot wanting. This is the reality that Radhika lived and learnt of as her cancerous liver throbbed within her growing at an alarming pace. Radhika had already enrolled as a donor a few years back along with her entire family and it worked like instant retribution when she was fortunate to be one amongst a miniscule percentage that received an organ. This prompted her to spearhead the mission to save several others in the most costless manner known to mankind – donating their organs. She has carried this campaign on LinkedIn documenting the journey of recipients and donors alike.
In our interview with her, Radhika reminisces that despite being a ghost writer for most part of her life she never thought she had a story to tell and then in her super sanitized recovery room she was penning her life's story and churning out her own experience as a liver transplant survivor. During the course of her surgery and in her recovery period her only life line was her Samsung phone and an overwhelming need to express the explosion of emotions she was coming to grips with.
Cataloguing a journey
The book is a narrative of episodes culminating into the quest for a donor, the flight to Chennai for the operation and the long post operative period where she is nearly alienated from the world and her dear ones. We dug some of her blogs during this period which metamorphosed into Second Go, the book.
"I am caught in a very Kafkaesque situation.
In four hours from now, I would be boarding my flight to Chennai to find a cadaver donation for my liver transplant.
I've been issued a month's notice to look for a cadaver, or else, my sister would have to be my live donor."
The underlying thread is that of sanguinity that keeps the spirit intact and gives the reader a zest for life, for goodness, a belief in the supreme and that of forgiveness:
"I've also begun to value life, decided to turn vegetarian, forget the past, forgive all real and imagined wrongs done to me; be more patient, happy and cheerful for whatever duration, I am here on this planet. If I come back, I am going to start on the book - not a survivor's guide, as there are plenty of those out there - but another, more cheerful book that my mom believed I carried in me."
"My pre-teen daughter is also preening before the mirror, packing all the stuff she would be requiring at my sister's place, yelling for all the missing knick knacks that she can't do without. Her class teacher, school bus has all been notified. Life continues."
You warm towards the writer as you identify with her, she is just another struggler transcending to the heroical through her courage, the divine forces and that of the superlative compassion of another. Her journal is interspersed with some light moments and wit rendering the artistry of Radhika as a writer:
"One thing remains - I still have to paint my toe nails. I can't be allowed any accessories inside the hospital - but I can be allowed this small bit of feminine vanity, right?"
With a new lease of life, the clock rewinds and Radhika celebrates a new date of birth, the book also catalogues a beautiful bond that she shares with her doctors and the entire team of caregivers.
"At the crack of dawn, the first message I receive on my smart phone is from #SahyadriHospital, Pune. It congratulates me on my completing two years as a #LiverTransplant recipient."
"On September 6, 2016, I had received a cadaveric liver from a brain-dead stranger to undergo a transplant at this hospital, and thanks to the loving care I received from a very competent team; I've lived to tell this tale."
"If I am lucky, I may get to rub shoulders with my anonymous "donor family." Officially, their identity cannot be divulged to me --- ever. But, I am told they would be present there, and my eyes would keep searching for them, as doubtlessly, they too would be looking out for me."
The book changes its pace dramatically creating that cinematic urgency:
"The call from Sahyadri Hospital, Pune came at 4 pm on September 4, 2016.
They had a brain dead patient whose family was ready to donate.
Could I make it to Pune in 3 hours by road?
We said YES and booked the cab."
And keeps you enrapt;
"You are lucky," said the OT assistant, Rahul later, "The tumour sitting huge on the main hepatic artery came out intact. Had it ruptured or spread to other parts of the body, you would have been off the transplant list."
To date, I haven't had the courage to look at my liver's picture. Maybe one day, I will. Meanwhile my new liver is getting friendlier with my other internal organs and I am aware of that.
Such is life! It throws surprises at every bend of the road. From a prospective #organdonor, I became a #organrecipient!
Reach out for the book that is now available on Amazon. Learn more about organ donation and the dispel the myths at the links below and become an organ donor today.
Organ Donation facts by LalPathLabs
What you need to know about organ donation in India
Gift a life today: Giftlife
About the Author: Radhika Sachdev is an independent journalist who has held senior editorial positions with leading news banners – the Times of India, Hindustan Times, Indian Express, Financial World and The Pioneer. Presently, she runs her own advertising outfit, Write Solutions.