There are stories which inspire. And then there are stories which are aspirational! Every once in a while, the universe introduces me to an extraordinary human. One who shakes up my foundations and lights up that fire in my belly. Let me share the story of such an exemplary personality, Dr. Anil Suchak, a lion’s heart, passionate, gratitude coursing through his veins and an embodiment of joie de vivre. 

Born and raised in Malad, a suburb of Mumbai, his story begins on the 11th of September 1978. A motorcycle accident while returning from his rural posting in Titwala had him fighting for his life in his own hospital. All of 23, he was revived from cardiac arrest. A splenectomy required 9 to 10 bottles of blood transfusion. In those days, donated blood wasn’t checked for viral diseases. This was to be the bane of his future health.  

Fast forward to10 years, he was now a practicing anesthetist and critical care specialist. Married with two children, life threw a curveball when he suffered a spell of jaundice where the enzyme count refused to lower. He flew down to King’s College, England and was diagnosed with the recently discovered chronic Hepatitis C. The doctors attempted recovery through medicines, but to no avail. His condition worsened to cirrhosis of the liver and in 2006 he was diagnosed with advanced stage liver cirrhosis and two cancerous tumors. 

“I decided to attend my daughter’s Masters completion in San Francisco as I assumed I would not live to see her wedding.” He speaks with a faraway look in his eyes. In 2007 he was advised urgent liver transplant.

A benevolent relative donated part of his liver as cadaver one’s were rare and Dr. Suchak underwent a 21-hour surgery at Apollo Hospital Delhi. Post-surgery he developed a complication and had to be re-operated upon. Inspite of suffering unmentionable pain and emotional trauma, Dr. Suchak recollects, how the beeping of the monitors hardened his resolve to come out of this alive. 

“I looked death in the face and could do so thanks to the advancement in medicine and my faith in my god, guruji and parents.” he speaks reverently. 

Mind over matter they say. The success of his surgery prompted dozens of calls from patients all over the country. Thus, began his journey of counselling and advising both donors and recipients. 

“My life was a reward, and I felt a burning desire to help save many more. I realized the significance of deceased donation. The annual requirement is almost 1.5 lakh liver transplants and yet only 2000 take place. Of these, 90% are from live donors! With lakhs of people dying in our country, it is a pity there aren’t more organs available for transplantation.” he exclaims with agitation. 

He pledged to dedicate his afternoons and evenings to creating awareness. As on today he has given 400-500 talks and presentations in schools, college, rotaries and IMA (Indian Medical Association) meetings. 

His renewed life required him to be exceptionally disciplined about his food and general health. He brilliantly conceived the idea of running the Standard Chartered marathon. For 7 consecutive years he utilized this worthy platform to distribute 10,000’s of booklets on organ donation.  

He has counselled almost 200 people till date. He recalls how this young girl whose mother’s life was saved post counselling, visited him out of gratitude. On learning that she herself was the live donor, concerned he asked whether the long scar did not trouble her. The young girl touchingly replied, “My mother is my life giver. I have but given her only part of my organ.” 

The “organ donation champion” awards on his wall and scores of lives he has saved, are testimony to his determination to herald a change in the world of organ donation. A superhero, he continues this quest undaunted by age or circumstances. “I hope a chapter is included in the 10th grade and medical school curriculum! Maybe one day the donation option will be added to our driving license” he ponders. With his exuberant voice still ringing in my ears, I know my soul has been ignited with a yearning to make a difference in our world.  

– Arohi Bhimajiani