skin donation

Saving Your Skin

More that 7 million people in India suffer from burn injuries every year. 80% of these are women and children. Amongst these are acid victims, dowry victims, accident victims and others whose skin has been badly burnt. It is the second largest group of injuries after road accidents, and every year nearly 1 to 1.5 lakh people get crippled and require multiple surgeries and prolonged rehabilitation due to burn injuries. Out of the 10% of these which are life threatening, around half will succumb to their injuries.

So what can you do about it? A lot. You can pledge to donate your skin after your death. You can make a skin donation of a loved one after they die and help someone get their life back. And it will cost you nothing but a little time.

Why is skin donation so important?

Our skin is the largest human organ. It acts as a shield to protect us from heat and cold, as well as environmental impacts such as chemicals, the sun’s UV-radiation and bacteria.

When the skin gets badly burned or damaged, it’s unable to repair itself without help. For patients with severe burn injuries, one way to promote healing is by covering the wound with Allografts – skin from an organ donor. Skin is needed to prevent infections, decrease pain and provide protection, and help faster healing and save lives. If the burnt area is not immediately covered with some skin substitutes, then patients are prone to infection, fluid loss and ultimately death.

In case of smaller percentage of burns, skin from the un-burnt area of the patient is taken out and put on the burn wound to cover it. But when burns percentage is more than 40% to 50%, then the patient’s own skin is not available to cover the burn wound. Therefore the need for skin substitutes. In emergencies when skin is not available, often relatives of patients offer their own skin, as a live donor.

Skin is the best substitute for skin. Thus, Skin donated after death is the best and cheapest substitute compared to artificial skin substitutes.

Such skin is a temporary dressing but is vitally important as it helps in patient’s own skin to regenerate. 80% of such patients can be saved if we have enough skin in skin banks. Donating your skin after your death, instead of burning or burying your body would be a great service to millions who are suffering.

How can skin be donated?

Many people do not realise that skin can be donated in the same manner as corneas, organs or tissues upon death. Donor skin can be frozen and stored for long periods, up to five years. Cities in India such as Mumbai, which has a Skin Bank, can store the donor skin and make it available to all the burn victims who need it. The skin is only taken from the back, thighs and legs and does not in any way disfigure the body. Skin can be donated within in 6 hours from the time of death.

Here’s how it works.

Just like for eye donation, in event of death, the crew from the Skin Bank (if there is one in your city) can reach the location of the body. The Skin Bank Team will come to the donor’s home, hospital or morgue wherever the donor is kept. Skin Harvesting is performed by Skin donation Team consisting of one Doctor, two Nurses and one attendant.

They will check for cause of death and contraindications and the Death Certificate and Consent of relatives will be taken. At the time of skin harvesting, blood sample from the body of the deceased is also taken and necessary test for HIV, Viral markers & Hepatitis is carried out at the Skin Bank.

In a simple procedure that takes just around 45 minutes, they’ll remove the skin from the back, abdomen and the legs. Our skin has 8 layers, but only 1/8th, i.e. the uppermost layer of the skin is harvested. Thickness of skin removed is very small and there is no disfigurement of the body. It is not even visible to persons who come to pay their homage.

Who Can Be A Donor?

Anyone can be a donor irrespective of sex & blood group. The minimum age of the donor should be 18 years but there is no upper age limit. Even a 100-year-old person can donate his skin and it will be used for treatment. Only those suffering from HIV & Hepatitis B & Hepatitis C, STD’S, generalized infection & Septicemia (Pneumonia, T.B, Etc), any kind of skin infection, malignancy and having evidence of skin cancer, cannot donate.

Facts On Skin Donation:

• You don’t have to pay anything to the Skin Donation Team, selling & buying organs is illegal.
• Anyone’s skin can be transplanted on any one, there is no blood matching, no color matching, no age matching required.
• You need to produce the Death Certificate and its photocopy which will be evaluated by the Team Doctor before starting the procedure.
• There is no bleeding of disfigurement at the site where skin if harvested and the area is properly bandaged.
• Currently there are skin banks in Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore.
• If there is no facility in your city for Skin Doctors to come home to retrieve the tissue, it can be done at a hospital.

What Can You Do?

You can register for a Donor Card at www.organindia.org and mention on it that you want to be a skin donor too. Tick the box that says Skin Donation. It IS NOT compulsory to register with anyone. The skin donation can be carried out irrespective once the call is made to the Skin Bank after Death.

The most important thing you can do is to TALK TO YOUR FAMILY. Convey to them that you want to be a skin donor, so that they respect your wishes. Please remember that it is the next of kin who will make that call to the skin bank, so they must know what you wanted. Read more about skin donation, know more about skin donation, and help spread the word to your friends and relatives!

Watch this short film on Skin Donation to give you an idea what happens and share it on Facebook.

‘Film Courtesy National Burns Center’

References:

National Burns Centre
Burns Helpline of National Burns Centre (NBC): 022-27793333 (active 24/7).

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3038407/
http://www.skindonation.in/facts.html

Sunayana Singh

Sunayana is a former journalist and has worked at Newstrack, Aaj Tak and Newslaundry. She co-founded ORGAN India as an initiative of the Parashar Foundation in 2013, and now works full time in spreading awareness on organ donation through various initiatives.

5 Comments

  1. Manoj Maloo · November 14, 2015 Reply

    Hi Organ India:

    It’s interesting and possibly fortuitous that I receive your email the same morning the Times of India reports “the first skin transplant in Rajasthan”.
    I wish I could send you a pix of the article. If you have activities in Jaipur, kindly contact me and let me know and hopefully we can get our team involved as well.
    Keep up the good work.

    Regards,
    Manoj

  2. Dr. P.K.BILWANI · November 14, 2015 Reply

    I am 70 years old Burn/Plastic Surgeon in Ahmedabad. The awareness about Skin Donation in public at present is very poor. No skin bank can work till people know about it and come forward for skin donation. Hence public education is very important. It can be carried out through TV media, advertisement in news papers, distributing pamphlets, hoardings, advertisements on the back side of Buses and auto rickshaws.Till people get aware of skin donation after death (cadaveric donation), till skin banks come up in all cities and skin becomes available for the treatment of Burns, we should not hesitate to harvest skin from live donors among the patient`s relatives. There is no skin bank in Ahmedabad. I am treating burn cases for the last 38 years and have saved many major burn cases with the use of donated skin from live donors (relatives). I have presented paper on this subject in various national and international conferences.Indian community is the best community in the world in which I have always found at least one relative in the family who comes forward to get admitted and donate skin for the patient. I have never found any Indian mother refusing to donate skin for her child (even for married child).Such is the wonderful community of ours. I wish to clarify that cadaveric skin is the best but till Skin banks come up in adequate numbers in our country and till the public becomes aware of skin donation after death (like eye donation) we should not hesitate to use skin procured from live donors to save major burn cases.
    Dr. P.K.Bilwani M.S., M.Ch. (Plastic Surgery)
    Former Professor of Plastic Surgery
    Director Gujarat Burns Hospital & Research Centre
    Opp. Tulsishyam Flats, Nava Vadaj Road
    Ahmedabad 380 013 (India)
    Telephone – Hospital 079- 27556665
    Residence 079- 27437430
    Mobile 9824047717
    Email bilwanipk@gmail.com
    Website http://www.burnhosptal.in
    Consultation Hours 10.30 to 1 PM, 6 to 8 PM

  3. Prof.G.Balakrishnan · November 17, 2015 Reply

    Dear Sunil

    At the outset I should congratulate you for bringing awareness about Skin donation. You have been the forerunner in utilising the Skin Bank towards the effective treatment of critical burns. Our skin bank at Right Hospitals, Chennai under your guidance has been the first of its kind in South India. It is needless to say that lot of awareness has to be created for the public to donate skin like the eye donation. Though our state is the first in the organ donation , the knowledge of skin donation is lacking. We have been always addressing the National meetings, Rotary Clubs and individual associations but still the benefit has not come to our expectations. The website what you have created should go a long way in harvesting skin from brain dead patients and persons who die at the residences. We have also harvested skin graft from donors at their homes following sudden heart attack. Incidently it is gratifying to note that we have saved 3 children by using the stored cadaveric skin grafts. We need lot of support from the public and the NGO’s in succeeding in our endeavour. I think we should join to form a common platform where different regions of this county join to promote this noble cause. Wish you all the success.

    Porof.G.Balakrishnan
    Right Hospitals Skin Bank
    Vasu Street (Behind Ega Theatre)
    Kilpauk
    Chennai – 600 010.
    Mob: 9444016969
    Hospital No: 044-26403939 / 26403999
    Website: http://www.righthospitalsskinbank.com
    E-mail : gbrighthospitals@gmail.com

  4. DR.Vikas Agarwal · February 15, 2016 Reply

    Can u tell me about skin bank in Delhi.
    We usually get cadaveric solid organ transplant but have no idea regarding to whom contact regarding skin donation.

  5. vineet Bhatt · March 17, 2016 Reply

    Great Mam… i want to join Parashar Foundation as a full time volunteer in spreading awareness on organ donation through various initiatives. Pls tell me mam how can i join.

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