Ankita Shrivastava is the Director of Direll Innovations Pvt. Ltd., which is continuously working on bringing innovative technology products in the environment of children.It provides services such as the Pre-school Education system, Home Schooling Environment, and Intellectual Property.
Ankita Shrivastava is also a liver donor,and is a World Record Holding Gold Medalist at the World Transplant Games, which is held by the Olympics Association. She won 2 Golds and 1 Silver for India at the bi-annual event which was held at Newcastle in August 2019. We caught up with her in Delhi to find out about her amazing journey.
Question: Hi Ankita. Many congratulations on your win at the World Transplant Games. India is proud of you!
Ankita: Thank you so much. I am happy to do my country proud.
Question: Ankita tell us, how and when did your journey as a liver donor begin.
Ankita: Well my family and I went through a spell of misfortunes, but with it came a long series of lessons. When I was born, my mother’s hemoglobin went down to 4, and she needed a blood transfusion quickly. We were in Gwalior, and it was 1993.The filtration process in blood banks was negligible. The person whose blood was transfused into my mother’s body had Hepatitis B, and we came to know what it had cost us 13 years later when she fell sick. But I was brought into the world fit and fine.
Question: When did you decide to donate your liver to your mother? How did you prepare yourself for the transplant?
Ankita: My mother continued to suffer while waiting for magic to happen. It did when I turned 18. We decided to go through with the Liver Transplant.
The fear of what it could do to me was more visible in my Mother’s eyes than in mine, and she tried to headhunt different hospitals in the Country to find some way to survive longer with medicines only. Some doctors were kind enough to be blatant about the truth, but some tried to mislead her to believe that medicines could cure her. Unfortunately, she believed the latter and we waited for the transplant even after I was 18. This made her situation much worse.
Question: How did you prepare yourself for the transplant? You must have been in your teens when you decided to become a donor. Why did you decide that and weren’t you scared? Did you know about transplants and what you would have to go through?
Ankita: Everyone was unaware of what the procedure is or does to donor or the recipient.All we knew was that she was required to go through a transplant, and that it was expensive. Even when I spoke to the doctor, he never really told me how it would be. So, the reality was quite different from what I was led to believe. Also, at the time, I really could not find much online about what a liver donor goes through.
As a Donor, and as an individual, I was super excited to go through a procedure that could save my Mother. As a young teen, I was unaware of what was in store for me ahead. Google did not have much enough information about Liver Donation and usually only information for Kidney procedures would show up when I searched. All the while the Doctors told me I had nothing to worry about.
Question: You said your mother wanted to wait to see if medicines could cure her. That didn’t work?
Ankita: No, not at all. She believed the doctors who said that medicines could help her, and this resulted in her health deteriorating and she went into a coma. One and half months later when she woke up, she was 50 kgs leaner and had no strength to go through a transplant. But we decided to go through it nonetheless, so that we would never have to tell her that we gave up on her or that she had limited time left.
Question: Tell us your experience of going through a Transplant.
Ankita: When I woke up after the transplant, I remember tubes across the body, my inability to speak, get up, eat or even cry with sound. The closest I could have felt to hell were those days in the ICU. The Transplant happened in Apollo, Delhi, and during those days the liver block was under renovation and I was transferred to the kidney wing. For starters, I realized that Liver and Kidney Transplant are not the same thing. While my Kidney Donor counterparts started walking on the third day, I was still given bottles of morphine. My scar had cut through from my chest to abdomen and the pain had no bounds. There was a string of changes in my body which I wasn’t aware of before the procedure, and nor did anyone explain in detail when inquired about.
Question: Such as?
Ankita: I experienced wire-like chargers coming out from inside my body and the tearing pain I felt. Even peeing would put pressure and I could feel things tearing inside. When I would lie down shifting from side to side, I could feel the chunk of my liver that was left inside shifting. Due to my liquid diet, I could not pass stools. Pain and restlessness wereall I felt those days.I remember not having my menstrual cycle for more than six months.
Question: That sounds painful. Each experience is unique, but you seem to have gone through a lot. Any suggestions on how to improve the situation for liver donors?
Ankita: Whatever it has done to me, it is still the best decision of my life and I would do it again without skipping a beat. The smile I saw on my Mother’s face when we met justified everything I went through. Though my experience also raises questions. We need a system where the Donor gets crystal clear answers and is aware of what he/she is moving into. Post-transplant can be a traumatic experience, where a Donor can find themselves unattended to and might, in some cases, see himself/herself land into depression.
Question: Was the transplant successful?
Ankita: The transplant was successful at the time and my mother was fine initially. I was so happy to have given her this chance.But things did not improve much. She was not able to stand post the transplant and there was no major recovery. Eventually, her organs stopped working and she died four months later. Ironically, the only organ that was working well was the liver.
About the same time, I started walking normally, but a weight more than a mobile phone would stretch things inside. To this day, eating out lands me into the hospital due to some internal asymmetries. I travel a lot and hence try to restrict my diet to coconut water, dry fruits, fruit, and curd.
My scar has turn into a keloiddue to my lack of rest during the post-transplant hence I suggest everyone to take the recovery time very seriously. Keloids are firm, rubbery lesions or fibrous nodules that develop when the scar does not heal properly due to overgrowth of granulation tissue, causing severe itchiness and pain.
The keloid starts paining every 10 minutes due to being in the middle abdomen area hence forcing me to avoid sitting.
Question: How did you come to know about the World Transplant Games? What are they and where are they organized?
Ankita: With 3 years of extensive care and focus on my health, I have gained full recovery. Though today also I have a clear understanding of how I am beautifully different from others and I have learned to say “No” according to my limitations. I was a National Swimmer, and when I came to know about the World Transplant Games, I decided to accept the challenge. We went to my father’s school reunion at Scindia School, and over there we met Karhun Nanda who is a heart recipient. He told me about the World Transplant Games. I was really excited to learn about this as I was already an avid sportsperson and a national level swimmer.
World Transplant Games Federation, established in 1978, organises the World Transplant Games for organ recipients and donors to participate in multiple events ranging from athletics to golf to swimming. It is recognised by the Olympics Association and involves an entire city in a gala event of 7 days with participants from across the world. In 2019, it was held in Newcastle, Gateshead in more than 10 venues across the city.
I find changing nature as impossible as changing your DNA. I have been a passionate, resilient, and over-enthusiastic kid since my childhood days, and nothing has changed even now.I practiced for more than six hours every day. I took help from the best coaches, trained at the Sports Authority of India, and represented the Indian team at The World Transplant Games.
Question: Who organized everything? Who paid for it and how many people from India went?
Ankita: The Indian Team had a 14-participant troupe which, though 200% in spirit, was low on resources. As the event was not recognized by the Indian Government, it made sponsorship an issue. Even after great interest from brands and supporters, the approvals became an issue.
Ms Reena Raju and her Foundation, Light a Life Foundation,have been a beautiful source of support and inspiration for all of us. They hand-held us through the entire process from documentation to registration to participation. She and her team’s meticulousness as well as organisational skills made the entire event successful for team India.
Question: How was the event? Are there lots of people from different countries?
Ankita: This event was the biggest I had experienced in my life. There were 59 countries and more than 2000 participants who are either recipients of an organ or donors of an organ.The entire city of Newcastle and Gateshead celebrated the event like a Festival. Each country was represented by line of coaches, strict gears, sponsorships, and support. It was amazing.
Question: Tell us about your achievements at the World Transplant Games and the Medals you won for India?
Ankita: I came 13th on the 1st day in the 5 km Marathon. That made me question all my efforts and I went into a cocoon. My next 3 events were on the last 2 days of the competition, so the 4 days in between the finals were terrible and I never left the Hotel room.
I had pinned all my hopes on getting medals for my country and I did not want to go back without any. I also promised my father that I would come back with medals, and I feared letting him down. I let the initial defeat get to me.
However, I overcame my fears and, on 22nd August 2019, won Silver in the 100m race, beating Germany! The unimaginable happened when the next day I won Gold in Long Jump,beating the British lady whom I had lost toa day before. The same day I won another Gold in Ball-Throw, beating Russia. Those 2 Golds became World Records in theWorld Transplant Games! What happened post that was a series of well wishes, interviews, awards and my name entering the India Book of Records.
Question: Congratulations! You did India so proud. What are your plans for the next games and any message to our readers?
Ankita: Thank you so much! It feels great. In 2021, the World Transplant Games are in Houston and I am positive about bringing back more medals for the country. We need support from the government and private organizations alsoto encourage players,to say the least. The government needs to recognize the games and provide training, team management and funding to players, if more and more are to come forward.
I have a sense of deep trust that with somuch effort being put by organizations such as yours and other NGOs to bring forward organ donation, it will bring hope to people who are losing their loved ones. It will also bring confidence in people to come forward for the noble act of giving life. If we have enough donors who come forward to donate their organs post their death, people like myself would not have to donate while being alive.
Question: Ankita thank you so much for talking to us and all the very best for the future.
Ankita: Thank you so much.