When her brother’s kidneys began to fail, nothing could keep Bindu from saving his life, not even the nearly 10,000 miles separating them. From Coimbatore, India, all the way to Dallas, Texas, Bindu made the selfless decision to be her brother Biji’s living organ donor.
Since childhood, the two siblings have always been close, but this life changing — and for Biji, lifesaving — experience has further strengthened their love for each other.
Brother and sister: The perfect match
In 2015, Biji Thomas found out his kidneys were failing.
Doctors diagnosed him with a condition called IgA nephropathy, also known as Berger’s disease, a kidney disease that occurs when deposits of an antibody called IgA build up in the kidneys. This buildup causes inflammation that over time, affects the kidneys’ ability to function and filter out waste from the blood.
With his kidneys then functioning at only forty percent, Biji would need a transplant.
As an avid golf and tennis player, Biji had to slow his life after the diagnosis. He didn’t have the energy or stamina to be as active as he wanted.
As an avid golf and tennis player, Biji had to slow his life after the diagnosis. He didn’t have the energy or stamina to be as active as he wanted. He started working from home and reduced his travel time. It wasn’t ideal, but this lifestyle was manageable as his doctors worked to keep him as healthy as possible. But his health took a turn for the worse when a bout of pneumonia landed him in a medically induced coma for 37 days. The immunosuppressants he had been taking to help control the IgA deposits had weakened his immune system, making him more susceptible to infection.
At Baylor University Medical Center, his physician, Amir Khan, MD, made a decision that saved Biji’s life. The medicine he needed to survive the pneumonia would damage his kidneys even further. But with Biji in critical condition, Dr. Khan decided to administer the lifesaving medicine. After recovering from the pneumonia, Biji’s kidneys were functioning at only five percent.
He urgently needed a kidney transplant.
“Instantly, God gave me the thought that I was purposed for this. God’s will for my life was to be used for this, giving my brother the gift of life.”
Thousands of miles away, his younger sister Bindu Samuel, a physician in India, learned about her brother’s deteriorating health. She turned out to be the perfect match and didn’t hesitate to become his living donor.
“It was hard news to hear, but being from the medical side, I knew this would be the best option available for him,” she said. “Instantly, God gave me the thought that I was purposed for this. God’s will for my life was to be used for this, giving my brother the gift of life.”
After making it through the hurdles of obtaining a visa to enter the U.S., all that stood between Bindu and Biji was the distance. Two flights and 23 hours later, Bindu arrived in Dallas, ready to be her brother’s organ donor. On Nov. 29, the lifesaving surgery took place.
“For me, it is like God’s plan completed perfectly,” Bindu said. “It all fell into place with the help that Baylor offered to us.”
Becoming an advocate for living kidney donation
As for Biji, he’s determined to make this second chance count.
“It’s not just about getting back to life as usual for me,” he said. “For me, this is in some ways a chance to redefine the purpose of my life.”
Together, the siblings have decided to start a nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating for living kidney donation.
“Based on our story, if we can become advocates and get more people into the living donor program and help more recipients on the waiting list, that’s a meaningful use of this extension of life that I’ve received,” he said. “For me, I’m pretty sure that life as usual will be better. I’ll be able to get back to golf and back to tennis but more important than that is this new purpose that I’ve received in my life.”
As a result of this lifechanging experience and their new shared passion for living organ donation, the siblings feel closer than ever before.
“We’ve always been close but I never expected her to offer up her organ for my life or my health,” Biji said. “I’ll be honest, I never knew she loved me this much. This is the best gift I ever could have received.”
You, too, can give the gift of life. Find out how to become a living organ donor.