Walk for a good cause

Dr Ghantan Palanisamy [Centre] and his friends arrive
at The Zon from Taman Universiti, Skudai on 7 July 2012
North-South Walk for Organ Donation ends in Johor Baru

It was a little after 6pm on 7 July when the group that included members of the Rotary Club of Johor Baru (RCJB) who accompanied Dr Ghantan Palanisamy and his friends, rounded the corner from Jalan Abu Bakar to head towards Dataran Johor Baru.  About an hour ago, they assembled at The Zon to join Dr Ghantan to walk the final sector of the grueling North to South trek that started at Bukit Kayu Hitam on 10 June. 

Dr Ghantan, a graduate from Manglore Medical University in India, was initially accompanied by his brother, P. Rajan, 23, a final year engineering student with Universiti Sains Malaysia.  On the fourth day, Ravinder Singh, 24, an aerospace engineering graduate from University Sains Malaysia joined the brothers.  After walking for 8 days, his brother left to sit for his final exams before rejoining the walk with him. 

Dr Ghantan wearing his signature cowboy hat
and T-shirt printed with his motto: Recyclables Inside
Wearing his signature cowboy hat and T-shirt emblazoned with his motto, “Recyclables Inside” Dr Ghantan, who went on the Solo Walk to promote awareness of organ donation, was upbeat about reaching the targeted 1,000 pledges for organ donation.

“The RCJB recognizes the effort put in by these youths,” said Dr S Sivamoorthy, Past President and Organizing Chairperson of the event, as he commended 26-year old Dr Ghantan and his companions for their commitment to go on the walk for a good cause. 

Members of the public, who read about the “Recyclables Inside” campaign, joined the walk for short stretches at various towns but Darun Nair joined Dr Ghantan to complete the trek to JB.  Dr Ghatan and his companions walked almost 1,000 km across the peninsula, braving thunderstorms and extreme heat and slept in bus-stands along lonely roads when they were too tired to reach a hotel in the nearest town.

Dr P Sivamoorthy, Dr Ghantan and Datin Dr Lela [L to R]
and the group, walking towards Dataran Johor Baru
Dr Ghantan, who is from Pantai Remis, Perak, first became aware of organ donation some 30 years ago when his father, Palanisamy Kaliappan, 62, a rubber tapper, showed them his organ donation pledge card.  His mother, Suzila Tamohderam, 56, and his two siblings also registered as donors. 

In late 2007 when Dr Ghantan was a houseman in India, he had a patient who suffered a snake bite on his leg and had amputations stage-by-stage, beginning with his feet, then below the knee and finally, his entire leg because it could not be saved.  Two days later, another patient who was from the same village, was admitted with severe head trauma and passed away due to kidney failure.

Some Rotarians joined the Dr Ghantan and friends in
the walk from The Zon to Dataran Johor Baru
“If only he had pledged to be a donor,” lamented Dr Ghantan.  He felt it was such a waste because one deceased patient can give a new lease of life to 8 needy patients.  This incident made him a passionate advocate for organ donation and compelled him to seriously consider what he could do to raise more awareness for organ donation in Malaysia.  “But I’m only one man – what can I do?” he asked himself. 

While waiting for his hospital posting in Malaysia, Dr Ghantan approached the National Transplant Resource Centre to seek advice and he received strong support from Datin Dr Lela Yasmin Mansor, the national head of the centre’s organ procurement team. 

Brochures and donor forms
by the National Transplant Resource Centre
There are 15,000 patients on the waiting list for organ transplants and to date, only 190,000 Malaysians are registered organ donors.  Encouraged by the support from his family and the National Transplant Resource Centre, Dr Ghantan started his walk across the peninsula with a mission to raise awareness and collect at least 1,000 donor pledges.

“Recyclables Inside” is Dr Ghantan’s motto because he believes that organs can be “recycled” and reused in those whose own organs have failed to function.  So even if death marks the end of life, organ donors can choose to give life to the needy and live on in others.  “Your pledge to be a donor will make a difference to those in need,” he added.

Dr Ghantan [Right] and his brother Rajan [Left]
helping cousin Saumyaasiay Vijayan on
their walk to Dataran Johor Baru
Dr Ghantan and his companions walked about 50km daily and stopped at public areas to campaign for organ donation.  Organ donor pledge forms were distributed for people to register and completed forms were submitted at the nearest hospital.  On their arrival in Johor Baru, they had 600 pledges and continued to campaign for organ donation pledges.

Ice-kacang never tasted so good,” laughed Dr Ghantan about the refreshing dessert they enjoyed on hot days during their walk.  He said they suffered blistered feet and mosquito bites from sleeping outdoors but it was an eye-opening experience to the true spirit of 1Malaysia.  Since they were not escorted by any car or outriders, they appreciated the kind hospitality and encouragement of strangers they met along their way. 

The walk was planned to be completed in 25 days but there was a two-day delay because Dr Ghantan was admitted into the Seremban Hospital for heat stroke and cellutis (a skin inflammation).  In the final sector to Dataran Johor Baru, Dr Ghantam was further encouraged when his proud parents and 13-year old physically handicapped cousin, Saumyaasiay Vijayan, walked along with him.  The group included RCJB members, Datin Dr Lela Yasmin Mansor and staff of the National Transplant Resource Centre.

Friends and family members registering to pledge their organs after the event

“He is an inspiration and an excellent example in the spirit of volunteerism,” said Mahaganapathy Dass, President of the 1Malaysia Indian Student Movement.  When he read about the Solo Walk, the 1Malaysia Indian Student Movement showed their support by contributing RM10,000 that went mainly towards food and lodging expenses.  “We are proud to be associated with Dr Ghantan,” he added. 

Registrations for organ donations can be made through the National Transplant Resource Centre (www.agiftoflife.gov.my) or the Malaysian Society of Transplantation (www.mst.org.my). 

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Johor Streets on 12 July 2012

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8/04/2012

    Hi peggy.... Thank you for the article... Nicely written.... Regards..dr.ghantan