When he turned 60, Indian billionaire Kochouseph Chittilappilly wanted to do something big. He had a vision of a kidney donation chain. And the chain would start with him.
Some said it was a publicity stunt. Others thought he was joking and wouldn’t actually go through with it. His wife told him to avoid the health risks and just donate money. Kochouseph was serious, and he did go through with it.
He decided to donate one of his kidneys to a stranger. The recipient was an ill trucker. Kochouseph donated his kidney with one cast-iron condition. A member of the trucker’s family had to donate their kidney to another person in need.
The trucker’s wife jumped at the chance. Her kidney was an unsuitable match for her husband, but was just right for another patient.
Sadly, somewhere down the line, one kidney recipient lacked family support, and the chain broke.
Like many countries, the demand for organ donation in India is far greater than the supply. In 2018, 200,000 people required kidney transplants, but only 7,500 people stepped up to the plate as donors.
In addition to a lack of donors, India also has religious and cultural taboos against organ donation. This dissuades people from choosing to donate their organs after they die.
Some say Kochouseph’s act of charity has been a game-changer for Indian society. According to his friend C.J. George, “In a single stroke, Kochouseph has changed how society views organ donations. It has led to a new awakening,”
Organ donation chains have also been successful in the US. Mitzi Neyens had lived with manageable kidney disease for nearly three decades. When the 77-year-old’s kidney went into sharp decline, she feared the worst. Mitzi’s friend wanted to donate her kidney, but they were not a good match.
Mitzi and her friend signed up for a new kidney exchange program, one as a donor and the other as a recipient. In 2015 Mitzi received a brand-new kidney and made history as the final link in a three-month-long donation chain.
At that time, the chain in Wisconsin was the longest of its kind. It included 34 donors and 34 recipients.
In 2013, Paula King approached the University of Alabama. She wanted to donate her kidney to a stranger. Seven years later, Paula’s selfless act has created a kidney chain that is still going today. It has given 114 people a new lease on life.
Inspired by Paula, people from 12 different states have signed up to give the greatest gift of all: life.