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Sunday Friends established a first of its kind ‘skin bank’ to save the lives of victims of burns, diabetics and trauma
W e make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” That is the motto of Sunday Friends—a Mumbai-based non-government organisation (NGO) formed by 100 like-minded friends who work at looking after the welfare of the helpless and downtrodden. Sunday Friends was established in 1982 by youngsters inspired by the work of Narayan Sewa Mandal at Vile Parle (Mumbai). As the name suggests, most of the work happens on Sunday. A team of volunteers regularly visits different wards of the LTMG Sion Hospital in Mumbai and helps out along with medico social workers (MSW) and doctors.
One of the most distinguishing features of this NGO is their creation of a ‘Skin Bank’, the first of its kind in Mumbai. Most people don’t even know that skin can be donated after death or stored like in a ‘blood bank’. The biggest challenge before Sunday Friends is to educate and motivate people to donate skin after death. The process started with educating doctors, especially family physicians, who are best placed to encourage donations. Gaurang Damani, who is active in this movement, says that the education process started with a seminar in February 2007 attended by over 150 doctors. The process is repeated at every opportunity, including participation in exhibitions by setting up a stall to explain the process and the need. He says, “Donating your skin after death saves the life of at least two burn victims or patients.” Interestingly, more than 540 families have already taken interest and have donated their skin.
When a person suffers serious burn injuries, the body loses proteins when there is no skin; this, often, leads to death. Synthetic skins are available today, but they are very expensive and out of reach for many victims. Donated skins are stored in freezers and retrieved to be applied to the exposed and burnt body parts of victims. It acts like a biological bandage by covering the exposed body and prevents the entry of bacteria and controls the loss of protein. This ensures protection until the victim starts to develop skin on his/her own. Beneficiaries are victims of burns, diabetics and to trauma patients.
So, how does one go about donating one’s skin? Anyone above the age of 18 can donate skin. Older persons with wrinkled skin can also donate and Mr Damani tells us that a 102-year-old man had donated skin, probably making him the oldest person ever to do it! An important condition is that one must not have any communicable disease, such as hepatitis, HIV, skin cancer or skin diseases. The blood type of the donor is irrelevant and need not be known. The family of potential donors can call the hospital and a doctor’s team will arrive within two hours to collect the skin. The skin can be harvested up to 24 hours after a person dies, since the doctors only take a thin layer of the epidermis from the thigh and back of a person. Anyone wanting to donate the skin of a recently deceased kin can call the Sunday Friends’ helpline
Apart from conceptualising the skin bank and donating the freezer, Sunday Friends has also established a life-saving ‘drug bank’ to subsidise the supply of insulin injection, dialysers, and provides financial assistance and rations to needy patients.
What makes Sunday Friends unique is the decision not to register it as a formal body with office-bearers, but to raise funds for specific activities as and when required. It also follows a no-names policy to ensure that there are no disputes or power tussles and the money received is utilised optimally without wastage.
If you are interested in contributing/volunteering in any manner whatsoever, contact Sunday Friends.
211 / 5, ‘Beas’, Sion Main Road,
Opp Ltmg Sion Hospital, Sion (E),
Mumbai - 400 022.
E-mail: [email protected]/
Contact details for Skin Donation only: 9820075645, 9821119451, 9821523076