This retired BARC scientist spends time with those needing medical help
Ketan Tanna I TNN
Mumbai: In 1988, Vaman Kadam became the first living liver donor in Mumbai. He donated a portion of his liver to his ailing daughter Pallavi, whose lifespan increased by four years with the transplant. After she died, the BARC scientist retired and decided to spend the rest of his life helping the ill and needy.
Kadam, today 66, approached SOSVA, an agency that places volunteers in NGOs, in 2003. He was asked if he could assist the Jeet Association for Support to Cancer Patients (JASCAP), an NGO that helps educate cancer patients and their families. JASCAP was set up by Neera and Prabhakar Rao after they lost their 30-year-old son Satyajit, a software professional, to cancer in 1996. The booklets published by JASCAP cost between Rs 10 and Rs 20; the sales proceeds are then used for the benefit of cancer victims.
JASCAPâ€™s booklets and books are a ready-reckoner on the various forms of cancer, how they affect humans and what can be done medically to combat the disease. The booklets are especially useful for poor patients coming to Tata Memorial Hospital: often, their families have no clue about the complexities of the disease, says Kadam, who also guides such people.
His daughterâ€™s death and his love for children also led the scientist to the Make A Wish Foundation, where he is a volunteer. Twice a week, he visits KEM and Tata Memorial hospitals (after he is through with his work at JASCAP) and interacts with children suffering from cancer. â€œWe volunteers never discuss cancer with child patients,â€™â€™ he says. â€œWe befriend them, try to win their confidence and be their buddies. We try to understand what the children like, what motivates them and what they really want. For example, there was this 16-year-old boy from Thane. He was in an advanced stage of cancer. But when I became friends with him, I realised that he wanted a cycle so that he could go to school and then college. We got him a bicycle as a gift.â€™â€™
Kadam also volunteers two or three times a week at the Narayan Seva Sangh in Mulund where needy patients are given free medicines. His primary job at the sangh is to liaise between patients, hospital authorities and donors. He also helps out at the Zonal Transplantation Coordination Committee, which works in the area of cadaver organ transplantation in Maharashtra.
Though he could have easily rested at home, especially after volunteering at a number of NGOs, the travellercum-trekker in Kadam makes him find time to explore the country. He has been on trekking trips to several places, including the enchanting North-East. Quietly supporting Kadam is his wife who, he says, is more spiritually inclined. His other daughter is married and lives in a different city.
Kadam describes Pallaviâ€™s death as the â€œlow pointâ€™â€™ of his life, but having experienced the problems of others through his voluntary work, he has come to the conclusion that â€œvery often, our problems are small compared to the enormous problems and difficulties that scores of families go throughâ€™â€™. â€œI know of a woman from Nashik who has a 10-year-old child suffering from cancer. She leaves home at 4 am 2-3 times a week and visits Tata Memorial so that her child can undergo chemotherapy. Children suffer undoubtedly, but very often the pain of parents goes unnoticed,â€™â€™ he says.