Tilak Vij

Vedic hymn ‘Sarvae Santu Niramaya’ meaning that all living beings be free from diseases, is the guiding force for Dadhichi Deh Dan Samiti, a Society dedicated to promoting the cause of body-organs donation after death. The Samiti propagates desirability of such donations, registers the willing persons as donors, coordinates with the Government Medical colleges for the donations of the organs and cadavers.

Now the Samiti has embarked upon a movement to create awareness about ‘Skin Donation’ . Though the skin grafting is a modern addition to surgical therapy but it’s roots have been traced to originate in India. Multination of ear, nose and lip were treated as early as 600 BC with the use of free gluteal fat and skin grafts. This was called the Ancient Indian Method.

Skin the largest human organ which protects us from heat, cold, UV rays and bectarias and enables us to have our sense of touch, is capable of mending itself from regular wear and tear, except when it is badly burnt or damaged and requires skin transplant.

Perhaps It is not generally known but like any other organ, skin can also be donated and transplanted. The way organ donation is life saver for people in need of transplants due to organ failure, skin donation can give a new lease of life to those whose skin damage cannot be repaired through natural regenerative process like in cases of severe burns or fatal injuries

For the first time in North India, Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi successfully conducted skin harvesting treatment from a cadaver in April 2017 after 81 year old Ratish Mohan Vaish, a retired defence officer passed away. His skin was donated for transplant. Dr A K Rai then Director, Safdarjung Hospital said, “ It is the first skin harvesting in North India done by surgeons of Plastic Surgery and Anatomy at our hospital with the help of DADHICHI DEH DAN SAMITI - an organisation promoting organ donation.”

Skin and eyes of a cadaver are best suited for transplant within six hours after death. Prof. Dr. R.P. Narayan,then department head at Burns and Plastic Surgery in Safdarjung Hospital said, “After receiving the phone call, our team of doctors started preparing to graft out the skin. We cleansed the entire body and four sheets of skin were grafted out.”

Skin is grafted from a special medical device called - skin dermatome. “We wanted to procure more skin from the body but due to the high temperature, the body started to develop the usual stiffness after death.” Said Prof. Narayan.

Health experts say that once the skin is removed from a dead body, it can be stored for five years under special medical techniques. Dr. Narayan said, “Donation of skin shall go a long way in treating serious cases of patients with burn injuries. Since the demand is more and supply is very less, we encourage people for more such donations.”

Union Health Minister, Dr Harsh Vardhan says that there has been a huge gap between those requiring skin transplants and the actual number of donors available for transplant. Therefore he called for an awareness drive on a monumental scale. Keeping in view the urgency to increase the donor-base for skins, the Health Ministry under the Programme for Prevention and Management of Trauma and Burn Injuries has developed Software for Injury Surveillance and Burn Registry.

Dr. Arti Vij, Head of Organ retrieval Banking Organisation at AIIMS also emphasised the need for developing a mass-awareness Programme for adding to the number of more skin - donors in order to save precious lives needing skin transplants. According to Dr. S. Raja Sabapathy, Chairman, Division of Plastic Surgery and Skin Bank, Ganga Hospital, Coimbatore, ten lakh people who get burnt every year at least half of them get help from skin donors. The remaining half could also get treatment if there are more people who donate skin after their death.

Now the question arises as to who can donate skin !

Yes anyone above the age of 18 years can donate skin. The skin can be donated within six hours from the time of death.

Unlike organs, the donated skin can be stored in Skin Banks for five years providing more flexibility to surgeons who can use it for various burn cases.

As in the case of kidney, liver, bone-marrow or plasma, in the case of skin transplant, the tissue-match between the recipient and donor is not required. Anyone’s healthy skin can be put on anyone. Persons having diabetes or hypertension can donate skin but persons with diseases like AIDS, HIV, Skin Cancer , Hepatitis B and C, Jaundice, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Tuberculosis, Active Skin Disease and Septicemia cannot.

For skin donation, the deceased person is not to be taken to skin bank or any hospital. The kin can call the nearest skin bank and retrieval team will come to the place of death that can be either home or hospital.

Dadhichi Deh Dan Samiti aims to encourage the People to take pledge to be a skin donor. With more and more people pledging to be skin donors, the gap between skin donors and people needing skin transplant may be reduced and lives of lakhs of people can be saved. ‘Sarvae Santu Niramaya’ -all living beings be free from disease.

References :
Dr. S. Raja Sabapathy
Dr. A.K. Rai
Prof. Dr. R.P. Narain
The Mail Today
Dr. Arti Vij