Through thick and thin

This story is of the “saat pheras” being put to the ultimate test and emerging victorious from the fire. Mr. Kaushik Shah (aged 69) and Mrs. Javanika Shah (aged 64) are a ‘larger than life’ example of fulfilling their marital promises made to the divine. Vows to be united in physical, spiritual, and mental health and share happiness and pain.

In 2016 Mr. Kaushik, a resident of Mumbai, was diagnosed with liver cirrhosis due to autoimmune hepatitis. For someone who had never touched alcohol in his life, this was a rude shock. He underwent two years of vigorous treatment in the form of medicines, endoscopy and band ligation. However, his condition kept deteriorating. Days and nights in and out of the hospital, losing consciousness at his grandson’s birthday party and inability to eat and sleep were just some of his many trials.  

Mr. Kaushik recounts how he had lost his zest for life. “I stopped working one year into my treatments. I was in a constant state of anxiety, and nervousness and felt zero inclination to socialise and converse. The fatigue was 24/7. The worst was the insomnia. All night I would roam the hallway, restless and aching. My family suffered with me. They took turns staying awake and massaging my painful limbs.”

In 2018, he suffered an almost coma-like state. The doctors concluded liver failure and advised liver transplant as the final treatment. 

Mrs. Javanika industriously went about researching liver transplant online. She visited all the hospitals in Mumbai and conducted a detailed study of their operating teams, qualifications, surgery success rates and infrastructure of each hospital. Today she is a walking talking encyclopedia on organ transplants. 

With beaming pride, Mr. Kaushik narrates, “She would set off every morning to inquire and research. After due deliberation, and a government rule permitting only a single hospital registration, she zeroed down on Kokilaben Ambani Hospital. I had no role to play in any of this. Even the huge expense involved was unknown to me till the very end.”

It was this swift action on her part that saved his life. Within six months of registering, he was gifted his second life by a deceased donor. It helped that his blood group was rare and he was 4th on the waiting list. On the 9th of December 2019, a day after his anniversary, at 2 am, he received a call from the hospital. His doctor wished him “My gift to you is a healthy liver!” 

Mrs. Javanika describes the traumatic 6 months before the surgery. “Water retention in his abdomen resulted in an inability to sit, constant back pain and difficulty breathing. Draining the same required monthly hospital visits. He could barely swallow and lost 12 kgs overnight.”

His surgery, however, was a success and was discharged in 14 days. His wife alone spent every second of his hospital time with him. “She must have been frightened and yet stood by me like a rock!” says Mr. Kaushik, eyes gleaming with tears. 

She took painstaking care of him post-surgery too. For 3 months he was isolated and didn’t shake any hand for a year! He still avoids crowds and social events. They travel to places carefully selected by her keeping in mind hygiene factors. Food is also prepared with great thoroughness. 

All of the above has paid off. Today Mr. Kaushik looks much younger than his 69 years. “I can finally sleep!” he exclaims joyously. 

To create awareness and share his success story, Mrs. Javanika and a senior doctor organised an event in their neighbourhood. “We hope our story can save more lives” she says. 

As I look at her with awestruck eyes, she smilingly adds, “We housewives are not accustomed to taking such massive financial decisions on our own. But since his life was concerned, I stubbornly went ahead and did so.” 

As I leave them, sitting in quiet and solid companionship, my faith in the institution of marriage is resurrected. Her parting line, “We have all pledged our organs, after all, we have been gifted a new life” leaves me with no doubt of who the superhero of this story is. 

– Arohi Bhimanjiani