July Issue 2013
Getting a Second Chance
Kidney failure. The diagnosis generally sounds like a death knell. It has often been described as an affliction only the very rich can afford — the complex, imported equipment needed for treatment alone is prohibitively expensive.
However, thanks to Dr Adibul Hasan Rizvi, treatment has now become an option for the poor of Pakistan. For untold thousands, the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT) means gaining a second lease on life through dialysis or a kidney transplant, and receiving specialised treatment completely free of cost for as long as it takes, regardless of whether the patient is a multi-millionaire or destitute.
While SIUT has become a household name, many are unaware of the boundless compassion and single-minded determination of the one man who made this institute possible. Building from a modest beginning with a tiny ward of seven beds and a single doctor in the Civil Hospital, Dr Rizvi’s leadership has fostered an internationally-recognised institution boasting 498 beds, 20 operation theatres and several branches. In 2011 alone, SIUT tended to a staggering 842,000 patients, and conducted over 6 million laboratory investigations, 200,000 radiology tests, 187,000 dialysis sessions, and 356 renal transplantations. 175 dialysis machines operate around the clock. All this requires not only an array of sophisticated equipment and a high degree of expertise, but also a tremendous amount of empathy and care without which treatment becomes meaningless.
Moved and fascinated by this phenomenal service that is unparalleled in the region, veteran journalist Zubeida Mustafa felt SIUT’s story needed to be told to a much wider audience. She took it upon herself to write and produce The SIUT Story on a voluntary basis, enlisting the help of a designer, a photographer and a printer who also generously volunteered their services for free. The book relates the tale of SIUT’s growth and its mission, extolling its numerous achievements.
It is intended as a fund-raiser and all sales proceeds from the book go directly to SIUT.
The SIUT Story includes heart-tugging accounts of treatment from patients such as the little girl for whom a private specialist demanded Rs 1.5 million, including the cost of a kidney transplant, which he would arrange. Her mother had nowhere near a fraction of the amount. Then, someone recommended her to SIUT. The mother donated a kidney to her daughter — something she didn’t know was possible — and the child, upon receiving free treatment, began a new life.
“Dr Rizvi says he will not let anyone die just because one is poor and cannot afford to pay,” says Mustafa, “He believes in guarding human dignity. That is why no questions are asked about a person’s financial status as in other hospitals.”
The book tackles the darker issues along with the inspirational. For example, SIUT has found itself having to confront the ugly world of kidney trafficking. There have been gory incidents of people, including children, being kidnapped, rendered unconscious and later waking up to discover they had been operated on and relieved of a kidney, or the destitute being encouraged to sell one of their kidneys to obtain desperately needed money. SIUT refused to let the traffickers make money through their institute, which took some doing.
Organ donation is a key issue dealt with in the book. Even if voluntary donations from the living are not available, there never needs to be a shortage of kidneys for transplant. People can pledge to donate in the event of irreversible brain-death from an accident or unsuccessful operation.
SIUT’s first kidney transplant came from a young man named Naveed Anwar who used to promote such pledges as a final service to humanity. Little did Anwar know that he would be pioneering the cause. In 1998, when the 24-year-old died a premature death, his father called Dr Rizvi at once to donate his son’s kidneys.
Throughout, the generosity of individuals has helped SIUT grow and thrive. In 2000, industrialist Sulaiman Dawood visited the complex incognito, and was so impressed that he sought out Dr Rizvi and asked what he could do to help. He donated 70 dialysis machines to SIUT. There are scores of other such examples but equally important are the small donations coming from countless kind people, which form the mainstay of SIUT’s running expenses.
SIUT employs almost 1400 staff members in 18 departments, who work in close co-ordination. Its 40-year history has been marked by numerous achievements. Previously, urology was not even recognised by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Pakistan. In 2009, SIUT was recognised as an independent institution, training post-graduate doctors, medical technicians and nursing staff. SIUT was also recognised for granting post-graduate diplomas to other medical institutions in the SAARC region and at any given time, there are 300 trainees.
In 1991, because of SIUT’s achievements, the Royal College of Surgeons, UK, chose Pakistan for a medical conference.
The SIUT Story has the potential to touch many hearts. If this book can inspire readers to donate or pledge, it will have served a valuable purpose.