My experiences with vegetable vendors

Subashini, Intern from MMM College of Health Sciences

In the first year of my college I became aware of organ donation. When I got an opportunity to intern at MOHAN Foundation, an organization that works to promote deceased organ donation and transplantation in my final year that I really began understand the complexity. As a part of my public awareness campaign, I planned to conduct a survey on knowledge and attitude towards organ donation at the grass roots level. As my sample, I chose vegetable vendors from the streets and markets in Choolaiarea of Chennai.

My earlier experiences in studies in different topics in rural, urban and sub-urban settings gave me enough confidence to approach and interact with people. However, amidst the pandemic, the markets were sparsely crowded than usual and gathering respondents proved challenging than initially anticipated. Data collection commenced at mid-morning with introduction about self and the Foundation and around 50 people were interviewed.

Experiences and Observations

The mere mention of organ donation caused panic in many respondents who refused to take part in the survey. It required detailed explanation about the subject and clearly stating the survey’s intention to convince them. This led to people gradually opening up and responding to the questions. These interactions evidently showed that the in people’s mind there are many myths related to organ donation.

An elderly gentleman said, “God has given me this life, body and soul. So, it should be returned to him when my purpose on the earth gets over.”Two other men mentioned, while they were willing to donate, their wives however, were not allowing them. One of them requested that the organ donation concepts should be explained to his wife, so that she can understand the importance of it. The other said that he is unable to convince his wife, as she thinks if he registers for organ donation now, it will shorten his lifespan.

One of the respondents was a female vendor, whose nephew met had with a road accident and was declared brain dead. This woman had requested her sister to donate his organs, but she refused to. When asked if she would now be willing to pledge her organs, she replied in negative without citing any specific reason.

In general though people believe in the nobility of the cause, but they are unwilling to pledge their organs for donation after death. There is a lack of awareness about the Organ Transplantation Act (THOA) and brain death. People often seem to confuse brain death with brain fever or coma. It is contradictory that most of the people are aware of deceased donation yet  majority of organ donations in the country are from living donors.

Creating awareness and busting of myths is very much important to make people understand the need and importance of organ donation.  Overall, it was a good learning experience. I wish I could work hard to ‘Touch the Untouched’ communities.