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The National Institute for Nephrology Dialysis and Transplantation has spoken of the need to combat the myth of those who have suffered brain death, especially brain stem death, coming alive and receiving back-up by way of public awareness.

Consultant in Medical Administration and Director of the Institute, Dr. Rathnasiri A. Hewage said that as a result 750 kidneys in conditions suitable for donation for transplantation go waste every year.

There are two types of kidney transplantation – live donors and deceased donors. There are deceased donors whose hearts beat and there are deceased donors whose hearts do not beat. In the latter, their kidneys have to be harvested within 30 minutes of death.
“Due to the lack of a helicopter service, this is impractical”, Dr Hewage noted.

“In such cases, only the cornea of the eye can be donated (as it does not require much of a supply of blood to survive) and the body can be donated to a medical faculty”, he added.In the case of deceased donors whose hearts beat, this is because the heart is receiving oxygen. This is because of the presence of a built in or in-built pacemaker according to Dr. Hewage. In people who have suffered head injuries, they may become unconscious or slip into a coma which is a situation where the cerebral functions are impaired and while the reflexes and biological functions are present, they do not respond as they are in a form of sleep.

“In an intensive care unit, if the deceased is on a ventilator, the lung will provide oxygen to the heart and in this manner the heart can survive for three to four days to even up to a week”, Dr Hewage explained.

In the event of brain death and brain stem death, while in a coma, organs can be retrieved via operation.

“People need to be educated about brain death and brain stem death, in that though the heart may beat, the person is dead and can never recover. Then people will tend to donate organs.

“At present, there is unawareness as well as misunderstandings concerning the complexity of the matter. There are 5,000 new chronic kidney diseases of unknown etiology patients per annum who require kidneys for transplantation,” Dr. Hewage further added. RLJ