Friday 9 August 2013

He got wife’s kidney, gold medal at games

R. Harikumar was the average middle class guy who, in his own words, “went to school, ate, slept and played, went to work, fell in love, got married.” What happened subsequently, however, yanked him clear out of his middle-class life and catapulted him elsewhere. And when he landed, he had a gold medal hanging around his neck.
Harikumar threw the discus to a distance of 18.44 m to land the gold medal at the World Transplant Games held in Durban, South Africa, earlier this month. The World Transplant Games are the equivalent of the Olympics for persons who have undergone transplants, and are held once in two years. Harikumar, 27, qualified for the games two years ago, when he underwent a kidney transplant, the donor being his wife of two months, Saranya.
It started with high blood pressure, and headaches, which were put down to the stress caused by Harikumar’s software job. But on the first Diwali after his marriage, he realised that his consistently high blood pressure had bust his kidneys.

“My kidneys were functioning only 17 per cent. It was such a shock, then, I did not quite know what a kidney did really,” he says. The family then tried through various means, alternate cures, to restore kidney function, but with no success.
A friend advised Harikumar to meet Dr. Rajan Ravichandran, senior nephrologist, and chairman, Sapiens Health Foundation. The diagnosis was IgA Nephropathy, a condition in which a protein that helps fight infectious diseases settles in the kidneys. Harikumar was advised that a kidney transplant was the best way to handle his condition.
“I was doing very badly. That is when my wife Saranya decided to donate her kidney, the best gift a husband can get from his wife,” Harikumar says.
Ten days after the surgery, he started walking, and then running, being an athlete all his life.
Dr. Ravichandran urged him to take part in the transplant games, but finding funding to go to Durban and stay there took a lot of effort. A pharma company came forward to sponsor part of the amount, and the rest from the Sapiens Foundation.
India had four representatives taking part in the games, and came back with two medals. Besides Harikumar’s gold, there was also a badminton men’s double bronze from Dharmendra Soti and Davis Kollannur. No mean achievement against all odds, physical and financial.
As former Indian cricket captain Krishnamachari Srikkanth, said, “A wonderful achievement. As a sportsperson, winning a gold medal is not an easy thing.” An Indian winning gold in athletics is a rare event. Harikumar would be an inspiration to all sportspersons, Mr. Srikkanth added, even as he doffed his hat to Saranya for sticking by her husband and donating her kidney.
The message of organ donation also got a boost, with Harikumar talking emotionally about the need for organ donations. Crazy Mohan, popular playwright and actor, plumped for it, since his wife underwent a kidney transplant nearly 10 years ago with a kidney donated by his brother Maadhu Balaji.


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