A young man in Kerala will get a fresh lease of life thanks to a high-ranking member of the clergy, who has agreed to donate a kidney to him.

Sooraj, 30, was diagnosed with renal failure two years ago. Undergoing dialysis three times a week was taking both a physical and mental toll on him. His father passed away four years ago from snakebite, his younger brother later died of a heart attack, and his mother has been suffering from multiple ailments. He was forced to sell off his house and other property because his meagre salary from working in the marketing department of Kottakal Arya Vaidya Sala, a famous Ayurveda treatment centre in Malappuram district, was not enough to pay for his treatment.

Sooraj approached the Kidney Federation of India for a transplant, following which Mar Jacob Murickan, Auxiliary Bishop of Pala Diocese in Kottayam district, came to his rescue.

Divine intervention

The Kidney Federation of India was founded by Fr Davis Chiramel, a priest from the Thrissur Diocese. Chiramel set up the organisation in 2009, after donating a kidney to a 43-year-old Hindu from his parish at Poothrakkal village on the outskirts of Thrissur town. Two years ago, he spoke about organ donation at a Bible convention at Pala. Murickan was in the audience immediately consented to a donating his kidney to a deserving patient.

Murickan’s chance came last month when Chiramel identified Sooraj as a match. An authorisation panel at the Kottayam Medical College approved him as a donor on Friday.

“I feel blessed that the God has chosen me to help a fellow human being in the ‘Holy Year of Mercy’,” Murickan said. “Pope Francis declared 2016 as the Year of Mercy to love each other without the barrier of caste or creed. I am following his message in its true spirit.”

Murickan said he had informed the Pope and his peers in the Syro-Malabar Church about his decision, adding they had appreciated his gesture and lent their support.

Sooraj sees the development as divine intervention. “I was speechless when I saw him [Murickan] for the first time on May 16,” said Sooraj. “There was a divine aura around him. I consider myself lucky to live the rest of my life with the kidney of such a noble man.”

The transplant is scheduled to take place at a private hospital in Kochi on June 1. However, Sooraj is still unsure how he will pay for the cost of the transplant, which will cost around Rs 8 lakh, as well as the post-surgery care.

Fruitful campaign

Fr Chiramel has launched an appeal for donors to support Sooraj and hopes that the Bishop’s gesture will encourage more people to donate their organs. The number of people awaiting kidney transplants in Kerala is around 8,400, said the priest.

The Kidney Federation of India has been able to help 80 people with transplants since it was established six years ago. An awareness campaign launched by the Chiramel for kidney donation has netted consent from five lakh people in the state, including a prominent industrialist who donated a kidney to a poor man suffering from end-life renal failure.

The movement picked up after Fr Chiramel, fondly called the "Kidney Priest", took out a “human kindness march” from the state’s northern tip of Kasaragod to the southern tip of Thiruvananthapuram in 2013. He collected as many as three lakh declarations from people from all walks of life during the 20-day march.

The campaign also forced the state government to cut the red tape involved in kidney transplants.