“We called him DJ V or Master Chef Viraj” recalls Dheran Shahi of his younger brother Viraj, who died waiting for a double lung and kidney transplant. “He was truly the best brother anyone could ask for. I was lucky he was mine” Dheran says sadly.
The loss of his brother has had a significant impact on Dheran and ignited his passion for organ donation awareness and transplant research. The topic of organ donation was first broached in the Shahi household when Viraj was just an infant. Born with idiopathic lung disease, Viraj spent his life dependent on oxygen. As he grew, the discussion around transplantation became urgent as it was evident that it was Viraj’s only hope of survival. The last two years of his life, Viraj was a constant presence at BCCH before being transferred to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. It was hoped that he would receive a much-needed multi-organ transplant there. Unfortunately, that day never came. Two weeks before his eighth birthday, Viraj lost to his battle to end-stage organ disease.
It has been three long years without his brother. Not a day passes that Dheran doesn’t think about him. He recalls his fondest memory “Viraj always waited for me to get home from school. When he heard me, he would yell from his bedroom, ‘I’m coming Dheran’, and we would eat a snack together”. It is clear Viraj is missed deeply, but Dheran has turned his family’s tragedy into a personal crusade. Now in Grade 10 at Brookes Shawnigan Lake school, Dheran was assigned a personal project.
The requirements were simple: choose a topic that had personal meaning while engaging the community. Dheran instantly thought of Viraj. He wanted to bring awareness to the importance of organ donation, while supporting an
organization that works to improve the lives of transplant recipients through research. Dheran knows organ donation saves lives, but he also recognizes that transplantation is not a cure, “I wish recipients had a smoother recovery posttransplant, with less complications. I also hope that new mediations can be developed so recipients can live healthier lives with their new organs.” He is also keenly aware that the need for donor organs will always outweigh the supply of organs available for transplant. Dheran imagines a future where society is less dependent on deceased donors and stem cell technology can be used to grow organs. He also hopes research can continue to develop new technology to repair and preserve organs that would otherwise be discarded.
The dedication Dheran has shown towards his project is admirable and a sign of his love for Viraj. He has done a remarkable job fundraising more than $1,200 for the Transplant Research Foundation of BC. It was important for Dheran to show the impact organ donation has for everyone involved in the transplant journey. This lead him to interview a mother whose daughter was an organ donor and a young woman who received a kidney transplant. (Visit his fundraising page to learn more).
Looking towards the future, Dheran hopes to study medicine at UBC upon graduation. In the meantime, he has a very important message for everyone “It is our responsibility to find it in ourselves to live life and pass it on”.
To donate to Dheran’s project and TRF click here
To register as an organ donor visit http://www.transplant.bc.ca/Pages/Register-your-Decision.aspx