For 41 years now, Bangalore Kidney Foundation has been working for the cause of people with kidney problems, those whose kidneys are failing them and those who need dialysis, and sometimes kidney transplants.
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Having been a regular visitor to their annual fundraising event, ‘Dhwani’, and having contributed to the funds, I found myself curious about the origins and reach of the Bangalore Kidney Foundation (BKF), and decided to meet P Srinivas, one of the founder-trustees of the Foundation, at his home in Jayanagar. This septuagenarian’s family owns Rapsri Engineering Industries Ltd.
Srinivas’ decision to go into a social initiative was by chance. In 1979, he and his brother Sriram were entrepeneurs, fully involved in running their engineering firm, when a friend of the family, Dr V A Bapat, a professor at IISc (Indian Institute of Science), went into a kidney failure-induced coma. “There were no facilities available, and we were running around in circles, trying to help him before it was to late,” recalls Srinivas. The friends finally took Bapat to Vellore, Tamil Nadu.
“After the initial treatment, we found that he had to go to Mumbai twice a week for dialysis, and this was proving a heavy drain on both financial resources and his energy”, says Srinivas. This made him realize the need for a dialysis unit in Bangalore. In very short order, BKF was set up, and all the trustees (friends of Bapat) contributed money. This was used to import a dialysis machine, and the very first Dialysis Center in Karnataka was setup, at Bapat’s residence itself, in North Bangalore, near the IISc campus. Noted nephrologist Dr N C Talwalkar joined BKF full-time, and started developing the Organization.
“We got the second and third machines with our own contributions. Each machine then cost Rs 1 lakh; now they cost Rs 6 lakhs”, says Srinivas. With space getting to be a problem, BKF was shifted to the Canara Bank Relief and Welfare Society, at the Seva Kshetra Hospital in Basavanagudi, in1981. At that point, BKR had nine dialysis machines. «A lot of philanthropists and NGOs were generous with their donations,» smiles Srinivas. BKF then handed over control of the Padmanabha Nagar unit to be managed by the Nephro Urologuy Trust (N U Trust), and opened a new facility in the Rangadore Memorial Hospital at the Sringeri Shankara Math in Basavanagudi, in 2007.
“The Sringeri Math welcomed us with open arms, and gave us a place,” reminisces Srinivas. “They had all the facilities we required». Each dialysis machine requires one and half Kilowatts (KvA) of power, and needs 200 litres of Reverse-Osmosis treated water per dialysis. The Sringeri Math has Cauvery water in plenty, plus viable borewells, too. Now BKF has 27 dialysis machines at Rangadore Hospital.
The Organ Transplant Act, 1994, being enacted and enforced, led to a reduction in the performance of unrelated kidney transplantation, and the shift towards nuclear families in urban areas like Bangalore meant that there were fewer related donors to Congestive Kidney Failure (CKD) patients, for legal transplantation. Today, the BKF stresses the dialysis part of the treatment because that is the only way for CKD patients to survive, and also have a reasonable quality of life.
BKF’s objectives are to provide affordable dialysis to the needy, facilitate accessible renal health care to affected people, create awareness of kidney and related ailments through camps and discussions, and encourage research on kidney disease by instituting awards to medical students doing research in the field. All the trustees work on a voluntary basis to raise funds, devoting as much time as they can spare to the task, and the salaries of the Director of Operations, the Executive Administrator, and the Administrator (as well as printing and publishing costs) are borne by Srinivas’ family run firm Rapsri Engineering Industries Ltd. “Sometimes, the names also bring in the donations,” chuckles Srinivas, mentioning that Anil Kumble is one of the trustees.
Funding and fund-raising obviously plays a major part in running the Foundation. “One donor, Mr Binod, who was from Infosys, made a sizable contribution in memory of his father,” says Mr Srinivas. “Texas Instruments is one of the corporates which is contributing to this cause in a large way.” There are several donor initiatives that BKF offers, including an innovative “One Free Dialysis a Day” Program, costing Rs 600 per dialysis. Sometimes, what is promised doesn’t materialize. “We were hoping for Rs 1 lakh every month, that was assured from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund,” says Srinivas. “Several patients benefited the first month, in 2008, when Rs 1 lakh was given; but after that, the money did not come.”
‘Dhwani’ is BKF’s annual fund-raiser event featuring both upcoming and established north Indian classical musicians. In 1991, the noted Dharwad musician, Mallikarjun Mansur, suffered from renal failure, and was brought to BKF for treatment. Following his improvement, he gave a free concert for BKF; and later, his son Rajshekhar Mansur was instrumental in bringing in many upcoming artistes for programs. In 2004, the 25th year of BKF’s existence, the first ‘Dhwani’ event for held in memory of the late Mallikarjun Mansur.
For more information about the Foundation, visit www.bkfindia.in
Dhwani 2010 is being held at the JSS Auditorium, Jayanagar, on September 25th and 26th. Click here for details.
“Of course,” mentions Srinivasan, “the funds raised by our ticket sales just about cover the cost of the event; it is the sponsors and donors who make the funds possible.”We raise enough funds for 750 to 1000 dialyses each year,” he adds.
However, the pressures on BKF are mounting, on many fronts. “We already have a waiting list of 490 people,” observes Srinivas. “Who are we to accept, and who are we to turn away? We don’t want to bend to any kind of pressure, political or financial, only the need of the patient should determine the urgency of the case.” Still, BKF manages to conduct 150 free dialyses a month at their centre , and another 26 at Narayana Hrudayalaya.
“As long as my brother Sriram and I are around, we will ensure that BKF carries on,” remarks Mr Srinivas; “After us, we are trying to make a sustainable business model for the organisation, so that what we have accomplished does not wither away.”
Patients at Rangadore Hospital tell their story
Rosemary is one of those who pay Rs 500 for each dialysis; she’s been undergoing dialysis for four years now, since she was diagnosed with Congestive Kidney Disease. She needs 12 or 13 dialyses each month. She says she finds the hospital very comfortable, and the doctors and nurses helpful and courteous. She comes from Hessarghatta, and usually takes a bus to the hospital, but sometimes needs to take an auto if she feels tired. “Each dialysis takes about four hours”, she says, “and sometimes I feel tired afterwards.” She does not know of any alternative to Rangadore Hospital.
Ramakrishna’s story is very similar; he developed congestive kidney failure about three years ago. He earlier visited Victoria Hospital for dialysis, but after five sessions, the unit closed down. Desperately seeking an alternative, he was told by Sister Noronha, one of the nurses at Victoria Hospital, about BKF, and he approached them. He is very happy with Rangadore Hospital. “They give me fixed times and I come twice a week from Bellary, and they neither change my timings nor suddenly cancel my appointment, the way it used to happen earlier,” he says, gratefully. He was working as a manager in a hotel in Bangalore, but had to give up the job. Once, when Srinivas met him, he asked after his job and on being told that he was not working, he encouraged him strongly to take up work. Now, Ramakrishna works as the manager of an old age home in Bellary, where consideration is given to his health needs. “I am managing a normal life only because of regular dialysis,” he says.