In a groundbreaking display of compassion and unity, Mumbai recently witnessed a rare interfaith kidney swap at KEM Hospital, illustrating the profound truth that transplantation knows no boundaries. A year ago, the destinies of Kalyan resident Rafik Shah (48) and Ghatkopar-based Ayurvedic doctor Rahul Yadav (27) intersected at the dialysis clinic of KEM Hospital in Parel. Fast forward to this Wednesday, the two emerged from the hospital by a unique bond – Shah now possesses a kidney donated by Yadav’s mother, Girija. At the same time, the 27-year-old doctor carries within him a kidney from Shah’s wife, Khushnuma.


This extraordinary exchange of organs took place at KEM Hospital on December 15 last year, marking a historic moment in the medical world. Dr. Tukaram Jamale, Head of the Nephrology Department at KEM, remarked, “Interfaith kidney swap transplants have been done on a handful of occasions in the past.”


Swap transplants, which involve the exchange of organs between two families facing the challenge of blood group mismatch, found an unlikely yet perfect match in Shah and Yadav, thanks to the keen observations in the hospital’s nephrology department logbook.


Khushnuma (38) had harbored the desire to be a donor ever since her husband, Rafik Shah, a civil contractor in Kalyan, was diagnosed with kidney failure two years ago. However, their blood group mismatch (A+ for Khushnuma and B+ for Shah) presented a formidable obstacle. Similarly, Girija was equally determined to save her 27-year-old son, Rahul Yadav, diagnosed with kidney issues at the age of seven. However, their blood groups were discordant (B+ for Girija and A+ for Yadav).


“We counseled the families, and both realized they could get healthy donors. Religion wasn’t an issue,” emphasized Dr. Tukaram Jamale. Transplant surgeon Dr. Sujata Patwardhan, leading her urology teams, successfully performed four operations on December 15, proclaiming, “Clearly, transplantation knows no boundaries.”


Mumbai witnessed its first swap transplant in 2006, involving a Hindu-Muslim couple, and has since seen a few more interfaith transplants from cities such as Jaipur, Chandigarh, and Bengaluru.


Yadav’s father, Ashk, an auto driver from Ghatkopar, shared that the only symptom of his son’s kidney problem was a distended stomach. Despite facing challenges, Yadav persevered through medical treatment, continued his studies, and fulfilled his dream of becoming a doctor. Shah’s daughter expressed happiness at her father undergoing a transplant two years after falling ill but noted that his recovery faced hurdles due to weight issues.


While Yadav was discharged on Wednesday, Shah is expected to stay in the hospital for a few more days. Despite not having visited each other’s homes, the families hold immense reverence for one another, considering the organ exchange as an “invaluable” gift. Ashk expressed, “We have been in touch for a year, struggled through paperwork, and awaited reports of blood tests. We are practically a family now.”


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