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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Now, skin donation is just a call away

Mumbai: While several Mumbaikars have heard of kidney donation or pledged their eyes for the welfare of a blind person, few know that skin retrieved from a dead body can help save the life of a victim of burns. A little-known concept, skin donation is slowly gathering momentum in the city.
    Come Saturday and the National Burns Centre in Airoli will kickstart a massive public awareness campaign to encourage more Mumbaikars to donate their skin after death. So also, the state medical education department recently held a meeting on how to mobilise public hospitals to join the life-saving movement, spearheaded by the skin bank in civic-run Sion Hospital.

    Be it a fire accident or dowry burning, a patient dies of burns due to infection when the skin is broken. Such patients can be saved if a barrier is created by grafting new skin donated from others called homografts. Donated skin is processed and stored in a skin bank before transplantation onto a patient.
    Explaining the initiative they will launch on Saturday, burns specialist Dr Sunil Keswani says, "All that relatives have to do is call up our burns helpline number on 27643333 and a specialized burns ambulance with a doctor, nurse and trained paramedic will reach their residence and retrieve the skin from the person who has died.'' He reassures that there is no bleeding and the corpse is not disfigured as only the outermost layer of skin, that too, only from the thighs and back is removed.

    Initiatives such as these are important for a city where the demand for skin grafts far outstrips the supply. It is estimated that every major public hospital and the few private ones which offer specialised burns treatment such as Masina
Hospital in Byculla receive nearly 800 burn cases every year. Yet the number of skin donations is only in double-digits annually.
    Dr Madhuri Gore who heads Sion Hospital's skin bank says awareness about skin donation is slowly increasing thanks to voluntary organisations such as Sunday Friends Circle that

has been counselling grieving families in the eastern suburbs. "We got 47 donations in 2007 and have received 13 this year,'' she says. This is an encouraging shift from the mere 56 donations in the entire period from 2000-06. On Tuesday, she met with principal secretary (medical education) Amitabh
Chandra to discuss a proposal on how other public hospitals could have their own banks or serve as collection centres to boost the movement. Sion Hospital too sends out its doctors and has a 24-hour line which can be reached on 24014392.
    Doctors assure that the procedure is painless, quick and free of cost. "The skin will be

retrieved in the ambulance and the procedure takes a mere 45 minutes after which the back and thighs are bandaged and the body is returned to the family for cremation or burial,'' says Dr Keswani, adding that the Rotary Club has pledged its support to the cause.


    Skin can be donated anywhere up to 12 hours after death
Anyone who is HIV negative, HBSAg negative and HCV negative, has no skin infection or has not died from any infection such as pneumonia or gastrointestinal infection is eligible to donate skin 
The process of skin donation takes 45 minutes
Donated skin is a boon to patients with burns
Those willing to donate skin can contact the Burns Helpline on 27643333 or the Sion hospital skin bank on 24014392

ON BECK AND CALL: A specialised burns ambulance with a doctor, nurse and trained paramedic will travel anywhere in the city to retrieve the skin from a person who has died


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