For a fancy dress competition in school in 2017, six-year-old Rivyani played a visually challenged girl and ended her act with a few lines on organ donation. She walked away with the first prize and a rousing applause. Months later, Rivyani’s father Radheshyam Rahangdale, a police driver at Deori in Maharashtra’s Gondia district, ensured the applause for his daughter wouldn’t die down: on Friday, he donated her organs after a road accident left her brain-dead.
After doctors at New Era Hospital in Nagpur harvested her organs, they were rushed to three different hospitals — two in Nagpur and one in Mumbai — where the transplants were carried out. Her eyes were donated to an eye bank in Nagpur.
On April 18, Rivyani was hit by a motorcycle a little away from Deori, when she was drinking water by the roadside. “She was coming from her father’s village in Salekasa tehsil with her aunt and uncle, when they stopped to drink water. A motorcycle hit them, but passersby did nothing; only took photos and videos for more than an hour. But later, a man took them to Deori,” says her maternal uncle Pravin Bisen.
From Deori, an unconscious Rivyani, along with her injured uncle and aunt, were taken to a hospital in Gondia. A private paediatrician at Gondia then referred Rivyani to Nagpur, where she was admitted to New Era Hospital around 2.30 am on April 19.
Dr Nilesh Agrawal, Director of New Era Hospital, says, “We immediately operated on her other injuries but we had lost her pulse. She was brain dead. After about a week of hospitalisation, we told Radheshyam that there was no point trying to prolong her life. I was pleasantly surprised when he said he wanted to donate her organs. Usually, even the most educated people don’t agree to organ donation and here was a man from a far-off village in a tribal district who had the heart to make an offer in his most tragic moments of his life.”
He added: “After completing the formalities for transplant, we secured her kidneys, liver, heart and eyes. While the heart was sent to Fortis Hospital in Thane and was transplanted into a three-year-old girl, the liver was transplanted into the body of a 40-year-old man at our hospital and the kidneys were given to a 14-year old boy at Orange City Hospital in Nagpur. The eyes were donated to Mahatme Eye Hospital in Nagpur.”
“While organ donation by children is not uncommon, it is probably unprecedented for four sets of organs to be harvested from a single child,” says Ravi Wankhede, an organ donation activist-doctor, who played a key role in co-ordinating the effort.
Speaking on the phone from Deori, Rivyani’s father Radheshyam says, “When the doctors told me that my daughter was brain-dead, my first thought was, her other body parts are not dead. So why not let them stay alive? My heart was pounding heavily but within 12 minutes of the doctor telling me she was brain-dead, I decided to donate my daughter’s organs.”
But before that, Radheshyam spoke to his wife on phone. “She was in Deori. Children get their father’s name but it is the mother who has all other rights over her children. So it was important to ask her. She immediately agreed,” he says.
Rivyani’s mother, Arti, 28, says, “I have seen people suffer because of ailments. So I thought why not help them the way I can.” Arti is a science graduate, besides holding a BEd degree.
Where did Radheshyam get the inspiration from? “I have broken a few rules before… when we were getting married. In our community, the tradition is for the engagement ceremony to be held at both the bride’s and groom’s homes. I took a stand, saying we will have only one ceremony. Why waste time and money? My in-laws agreed. Since then, many others have followed suit. When you take a step forward, others follow. I remembered that when I thought of donating my daughter’s organs. It helped me decide fast,” says Radheshyam, 33, also a graduate.
Says Agrawal, “In my entire practice, I haven’t seen parents like Radheshyam and Arti. After we harvested the organs, same to me and said he wanted to hug me and wanted me to bless his child. I hugged him and put my hand on Rivyani’s head to bless her. When I went home that day, I cried a lot.”
Radheshyam has a message for the parents of the 3-year-old who received his daughter’s heart. “Please convey to them that they should celebrate my daughter’s birthday on May 5 every year along with their child’s regular birthday,” he says.