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Organ recipient athlete Vishnu Nair represents India at World Transplant Games, bats for promotion of Transplant sports

Vishnu Nair

New Delhi, Aug 23: There is a perception that people who have undergone a body transplant should lead a modest life and prevent themselves from doing much physical work. The common notion is that such a person isn't supposed to strenuous work for that might pose health risks.

It is not common to think about a person, who went through an organ transplant, picks up athletics as a career option. Vishnu Nair is one such name who is not only breaking such mentality, in fact, he could be an inspiration to thousands of people who believe their lives hit a dead-end post-transplant surgery.

Vishnu is not just leading a normal life, instead, he's chasing his dream in track and field and bringing laurels to the country. Having participated in several 5K marathon events in India, Vishnu is participating in 5k racewalk on August 23 (today) at the World Transplant Games at Newcastle, Gateshead in the United Kingdom. He's part of the 14-member team from India to participate in the event.

His journey has been incredible and he could be a role model for thousands of people who've given up hope to pursue their dreams after going through a transplant.

Mykhel had a chat with Vishnu ahead of World Transplant Games and the 33-year-old reflected upon his journey and the challenges he overcame to pursue his dream post-transplant. Here are the excerpts:

MyKhel: When did you have the transplant? What was the reason? Who was the donor?

Vishnu Nair: I had my Kidney Transplant in May 2007 and my mother was the donor. We consulted 3 different doctors and everyone thought that my kidneys failed gradually. But, since, one never knows that their kidneys are failing until it's the last stage, it's difficult to pick up the symptoms and that becomes all the more difficult during one's growth years. When I was diagnosed, my serum creatinine (a blood level to determine kidney function) was 13, which was quite high and doctors recommended immediate dialysis and kidney transplant.

MK: When did you decide to pick up participating in a sporting event? Any particular moment that inspired you to get on the field?

VN: I used to participate in various sports and activities like cricket, football, volleyball, cycling before I was diagnosed with kidney failure. The initial years after my kidney transplant was all about adjusting to a new phase of life. I had to deal with my hearing loss too. It took some time for me to come into terms with what was going on with my body and to accept the new life.

Indulging in sports activities certainly helps in keeping oneself fit, and to be fit becomes all the more important after surgery. The unique thing about transplant sports is that it promotes the cause of gift of life.

I got to know about the World Transplant games through social media and when I read the stories about various organ transplant recipients from all over the world participating in high-level sports and that too to promote organ donation and to showcase that with organ transplant and organ donation one can live a normal life. I thought, what better way to promote the gift of life to be on the field!

Sports and activities not only helps in keeping oneself fit but we get to mingle with different inspiring life stories. I have read about many different personas with all kind of adversities and they have inspired me a lot.

MK: What were the initial challenges and hardships you faced?

VN: There is no government-backed federation for promotion of sports in India for organ transplant recipients and donors. Well, since organ transplant surgery is mostly inside the body, it is mostly invisible to others. But, we have our own challenges to go through, like we have to take medicines at a specified time and need a hygienic environment after transplant to keep ourselves away from infections, etc.

To participate in World Transplant Games, funding and sponsorship was a major problem, due to lack of government federation and support for transplant sports in our country vis-a-vis other nations. I believe the promotion of Transplant sports will not only help create awareness about organ donation and fitness after transplant surgery, but it will also bring forward more people for organ donation cause. We all can recycle our organs to those who need it while we are alive and even after our death. That's the best legacy that a human can give.

MK: How did your family respond to your decision to get on the field? You had to make some efforts to convince them or did they readily agreed?

VN: Initially, they were a bit reluctant and would advise me to not stress myself much. I did get a fair share of scolding when I started playing sports after my transplant from my parents, which I guess is quite natural. I asked my doctor once in front of my parents during one of my follow-up visits about participating in sports and activities and the doctor replied in affirmative. That gave them some confidence.

MK: Were you athletically active before your transplant days? Which sports did you use to play earlier?

VN: Yes. I used to indulge in cricket, football, volleyball, cycling.

MK: Tell us about your achievements so far and future plans?

VN: I have participated in 5K marathon organised by Central Civil Services Cultural & Sports Board (CCSCSB) in Delhi on March 2019 and also completed 5k Gift of Life run at the world transplant games 2019.

I will be participating in 5k racewalk on 23rd August 2019 at the World Transplant Games.

Hopefully, if we have more participants from India for the transplant games in future, I would love to play sports like volleyball and football.

MK: How difficult it is for people to pick up a sport after getting transplants? Is there enough awareness amongst people so that they can pick up sports?

VN: Picking up sports after transplantation depends upon the individual as everybody's body responds differently to the donated organ and the medicines. Some get on with life right away after the initial period of rest, post-surgery, while for some it may take longer. However, with a positive outlook towards life, I believe anyone can pick up sports if they wish to!

One has to be careful about being hygienic and taking medicines on time.

There is no awareness in India about transplant sports vis-a-vis other countries. But, things are changing with social media. If social media is used in a right away, it would be very helpful for creating awareness about such things. But, I do hope the government considers to create a federation or sports body exclusively for transplant sports to promote organ donation and fitness of Life post-transplant. There is an urgent need to promote organ donation in India. An organ donor can save up to 8 lives!

MK: How do you keep yourself motivated in times of adversity?

VN: In life, everyone may go through adverse situations. Though it may not be the same but adversities are life's challenges to make it more interesting to become strong inside out. I like to have my time alone in a calm environment and think about the past, present and future. I get motivated by thinking about how privileged I am to get a second shot at life, second shot at hearing again. Some people who inspired and motivated me are AB Vajpayee, who donated his kidneys in his youth and lived an active life till his 90s, Beethoven - who created most of his masterpiece music after he became deaf, Helen Keller who was a famous deaf-blind author. I love to read stories about people's challenges in various forums and how they overcame the same. I read this quote which was written in a handbook which my transplant surgeon gave: "Look towards the sunshine and even your shadow will fall behind" -Quote by unknown

MK: What is your message to the thousands of young people who go through the transplants and feel their lives have come to a standstill post-surgery?

VN: Just be calm and trust the godly medical professionals. You have got a new life. Make the most of it now and be thankful always for the gift of life by the donor. Consult your doctor if you feel anything amiss with your body. You know the best about what is happening with your body. Be open to medical professionals. There will certainly be challenges, and life will constantly change. Accept what life has given you. Eat right, sleep right and love what you do.

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Story first published: Friday, August 23, 2019, 17:33 [IST]
Other articles published on Aug 23, 2019
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