PETALING JAYA: From being stricken with debilitating kidney disease to becoming a health advocate, Siva Kumar Raghavan has come a long way.
It was 14 years ago when he felt something was amiss with his health.
Siva, 52, felt a splitting headache after breakfast that led him to be hospitalised. It was after a kidney biopsy that it was found he had a serious kidney condition.
“It was emotionally tough on me. I broke the bad news to my wife and told her that it was fine if she wanted to leave me. But she stayed.”
In between dialysis procedures, Siva was told a kidney transplant could be done involving a donor with a different blood type. In his case, it was his wife Sharmila Devi.
“I didn’t want to put anyone at risk, but once we spoke with the doctors at Kuala Lumpur Hospital, she insisted on being my donor,” he told theSun.
The surgery took four hours and recovery took a month.
“I became the first person (who have had) three kidneys.”
But the fight was just the beginning, as his new kidney slowly started to fail due to mismanagement of immune suppressors that compromised his system.
“My immune system started to attack my new kidney.”
He was hospitalised for two weeks and given intensive medical treatment. Thanks to the doctors at Kuala Lumpur Hospital, he recovered.
But instead of feeling sorry for himself, his life now revolves around sharing his insights on the importance of exercising and being stronger in mind and soul. He has been hiking weekly around the Klang Valley with his 12-year-old son Thaksheel Nair in preparation for their climb at Mount Kinabalu next month.
“I believe in exercise as it makes our muscles stronger. Some have asked me why I don’t get tired after my dialysis. I can even drive to Penang and back. I want to change the common perception and let people know that one can be active even after dialysis treatment.”
He has since been roped into a loose coalition with medical specialists to urge the government to study issues related to organ transplant.
This is in addition to pushing for an opt-out system for organ donation to meet the large demand for organ transplants, especially for kidneys.
“The opt-out system simply means that every citizen will automatically be a donor, and allow hospitals to harvest the organs of a deceased person, thus by-passing the consent required from the
Siva, who is also president of organ donation non-governmental organisation Green Ribbon Support Association, said it is time for policymakers to ensure the system is implemented.
“We understand that a change in policy would not come overnight. Our strategy is to amplify and advocate it in the long term.”
To that end, he holds fast to Helen Keller’s words of wisdom: “Life is a daring adventure or nothing.”