Thirty four years after he graduated from Smithers Secondary School (SSS) Anil Srivatsa is back in Smithers.
And while he came back in 2005 for his 20-year high school reunion and in 2012 to show his wife and children where he finished school, this time he’s here on a mission.
To get people talking about organ donation.
Srivatsa spoke to students at both SSS and Coast Mountain College (CMTN) about the importance of organ donation and why it’s critical to speak with your loved ones about your wishes, even if you have signed up as a donor.
Srivatsa’s own experience with organ donation began five years ago when he donated one of his kidneys to his neurosurgeon brother who was on dialysis and experiencing total kidney failure.
His first impression was he was scared.
”I was a little afraid … but I wanted to do something for him because I love him and I believe that love is the starting point of anything that has remotely to do with organ donation.”
After the successful donation, he said he began to look more into organ donation across the globe and realized there are many misconceptions about the practice.
“Since then i’ve found it to become my purpose to spread more awareness about organ donation,” he said, adding most people he meets are afraid of organ donation and live under the impression as “live donors” (someone who donates an organ — like a kidney — but not as a result of dying) they will not be able to live “normal” lives afterwards.
Srivatsa said this just isn’t true and the experience made him realize how great of an act the gift of giving life in the form of organ donation is.
It was at this point he said he knew he had to go out and spread this message.
“I used this knowledge to come out and say OK what can I do to make this better for someone else?”
Enter the Gift of Life Adventure, a cross-continental trip Srivatsa began four years ago which has spanned 41 countries so far (Srivatsa does the trip in five-month intervals annually so he still has time to work at home and make a living).
Eventually he also designed an app to go along with the Gift of Life Adventure, the “The Million Donor Project”.
The app helps sign people up as organ donors. After an individual signs up it automatically messages pre-selected members of their family with a message detailing their wishes with regards to organ donation, effectively triggering a dialogue within the donor’s own family and friend circle.
He isn’t hitting the brakes on his road trip any time soon, either.
After Smithers, Srivatsa will continue south all the way to Argentina, where he has a number of talks similar to the ones he gave at CMTN and SSS planned.
Even still, he said it was a special treat to get to come back to the place where he finished high school and see some of the same landmarks and buildings he spent time in as a teenager so many years ago.
Above all, he said even if you are signed up as an organ donor it’s important to let your family know about your wishes, as many countries will give loved ones the final decision over whether or not a deceased family member’s organs can be donated.
It’s important for the conversation to happen at home.
“My kids know what I want. They will make that phonecall. Because when I’m dead, I can’t do it.”