“This man is dearer to me than my own brothers,” says KG Markose introducing Fr Kuriakose Varghese, the man who offered his kidney to the singer. When there was an unexpected health setback in his career, he was able to come back to life only because of Fr Kuriakose Varghese’s magnanimity. But Fr Kuriakose only had one request to Markose—“I will give my kidney but please don’t tell this to anyone.” Markose and his family agreed. Nine years after the successful kidney transplant operation that reclaimed the musician's life and career, he finally chose to reveal the truth on March 10, which was World Kidney Day. “He did something not even our own siblings would do. I can never forget it till my last breath,” says an emotional Markose.
It was in 2013 that Markose consulted Nephrologist Dr Iqbal at Medical Trust Hospital after he had some health ailments during a US trip. It was discovered that his kidney was almost 70% dysfunctional. Though the doctor suggested dialysis, he felt a kidney transplant was the only long-term solution. But he couldn’t find a donor at home as none of their kidneys were matching with his. Markose was O+ve and his wife was B+ve. If he was able to find a donor through govt run facilities, he gave a written pact that his wife’s kidney would be donated to a patient in need. He registered his name under Government’s organ sharing programme and waited. That’s when he got a call from Fr Kuriakose.
Following that things moved faster. Tests were matching almost 99%. Dr. Iqbal told Markose that this was the first time in his professional life that he was finding such a perfect kidney donor for a patient. His surgery started in September 2013. The kidney replacement surgery was conducted in December, and he resumed singing in March 2014. Since he had given a promise to the priest, Markose kept it to himself.
Why this disclosure?
Fr Kuriakose has a clear answer as to why this is being revealed now. This was to address the challenges faced by Kidney donors. “There are a lot of people who will discourage kidney donors. I thought eventually there will also be personal attacks. With time, I felt such misunderstandings will be addressed. That’s why I decided to keep this confidential and take time to reveal the truth to the world. And also if I fall ill following this transplant, they will also say that it’s a result of the kidney transplant. Now it has been 9 years and both of us are alive and healthy. Now you will also believe me,” says Fr Kuriakose.
It wasn’t the singer’s celebrity status that prompted Fr Kuriakose to donate his kidney. He had already made a resolution to donate his organs when he was still alive. That’s when he came to know through a friend about Markose’s condition and decided to voluntarily donate his kidney. Then, he wasn’t sure his kidney will be a match for Markose. But when the tests came out positive, he decided to go ahead. He is currently in charge of Mar Antonios Dayara in Mallappally, Kottayam.
Misconceptions about kidney transplant
According to Markose, there are a lot of misconceptions around kidney transplant among the public. “They are being circulated by those who have no idea about the procedure. They are under the assumption that kidney transplant will have adverse effects on the donor as well as the receiver. Some people think a kidney donor might die soon after the transplant. In fact, this misconception is there amongst highly educated people in the society, from Bishops, politicians to cops. But the truth is that a kidney transplant will have no adverse effects on the donor or the receiver. Despite such reassurances, Fr Kuriakose was removed from several important positions in his profession. It’s sad that his noble act is punished this way.”
"I have rendered several heavy-duty songs soon after this operation. My biggest pressure point while singing is on my abdomen. Also chest and throat. Most people think a damaged kidney is replaced by a brand new kidney. Nothing like that. That part remains untouched. Though 70% of my kidney is not functioning, 30% is still functional. Along with it, Kuriakose Achan's kidney is also there. Therefore I am double strong. I have to strictly take medicines and follow a disciplined lifestyle without which things can go out of control,” reveals Markose.
Challenges of transplant
Fr Kuriakose recalls that being a priest helped in easing out some of the hurdles of kidney donation. A lot of paperwork was required for this procedure. The papers from the panchayat were received promptly and accurately. That can be because of his designation. He is not sure it will be as smooth for an ordinary person. Another challenge was the face-to-face interview before the Organ Donation Committee as they need to be convinced that his kidney donation comes without any reward. The consent of his family was also required and not just that, they also had to attend this interview.
He only informed his parents regarding this donation. Fr Kurakose didn’t inform his siblings. It was his father who appeared before the committee. They told him that three out a thousand are known to die after this surgery to which his father boldly told them—“If you are destined to die, it can also happen through a road accident, right? It needn’t be through surgery. Then came their next question—“Are you aware of what exactly your son is planning to do? “He is sufficiently educated enough to understand what he is doing. And I am aware of what is going to do. He is doing this with my permission.” That convinced the committee and soon after the meeting some of them told the priest that his father was a brave man.
Simplify these procedures
On this World Kidney Day, Fr Kuriakose and Singer Markose have one request to this world. Please do something to eliminate the complications and delays in the process of organ donation. Simplify it. “Though we are told that the government is with us the truth is that no one is there to help us in here. Things aren’t really running smoothly. There are so many obstacles in the way for the receiver as well as the donor. There are many questions that can hassle people when it comes to organ donation. And because of this many people aren’t able to do this transplant on time. It is unfortunate that the government is creating such obstacles and loopholes before such a life-threatening situation. We are talking about a life here. How long can they withstand this disease,” Markose asks.
"Also, the kidney transplant operation is very expensive. How can the poor afford such surgeries? The operation of such patients are often done with the help of kindhearted financially reliable people. But the sad part is that they won't get much help after the surgery. They still have to spend a lot on post-surgery treatment. The receiver will need to take the right medication for the rest of his life and that requires a huge amount of money. Unfortunately, those who are prepared to help kidney patients often overlook this fact. While such patients may receive help during surgery, many do not pay attention to the cost of subsequent medication. That’s why so many of these receivers are still struggling. Government intervention is needed in this regard as well," says Fr Kuriakose.