Mumbai, Nov 13: Malad resident Sylvester Borges was dubbed Santa Claus in his neighbourhood. He wasn't portly considering that he was a body-builder, but he loved to distribute gifts every time he came down for holidays from his Gulf job. On Diwali day on Saturday November 10, Borges played the Santa for the last time—he gave the gift of life to two patients with kidney failure.
After a surgery to clear his brain haemorrhage failed to revive Borges, his family comprising wife Philomena and daughters Shirley and Kevinda decided to donate his organs. Two patients on the Zonal Transplant Coordination Centre's list are his beneficiaries (Transplantation rules don't permit the donor and recipients names to be published alongside. One of the patients is recovering after the transplant operation in Bombay Hospital while another in Hinduja Hospital).
The "donation", says the Borges family, seemed a natural progression of how Borges had lived his life—helping others. "Not only did he like to help everyone who needed things fixed or mended, my father liked to be appreciated by all," recalls Shirley.
So while not playing Santa, Borges took to blowing thick hot water bags till they burst. He played his "blow and burst" trick over 600 times at various orchestras and parties, enjoying the audience's awe.
In 1996, after having bursted 500 hot water bags, he earned a place in the Limca Book of Records for his "awesome lung power".
"My father was a body-builder when young and he exercised every day," says Shirley. On the evening of November 4, he was in the midst of his daily exercise regimen when he collapsed. "I came home to find him sitting up, but his left side seemed somewhat paralysed." Even when he was taken to Suchak Hospital, he recognised all his family members but deteriorated soon thereafter.
When a CT scan detected a haemorrhage in the brain that would require immediate surgery, Borges was moved to Bombay Hospital. "For two days after the surgery we waited for him to come around, but he didn't." On Wednesday, Shirley remarked to her mother and sister that her father would certainly have liked to donate his organs. The family decision was thus made.
According to Dr Ashok Kriplani of Bombay Hospital, it was the family who came came up with idea of donation. "They spoke to neurosurgeon Rajan Shah, who treated their father, about the idea when it was declared that their father was brain-dead," he said, adding that a 40-year-old kidney failure patient who was on the ZTCC list for three years got one of Borges's kidneys. "He is doing well. Even the patient at Hinduja Hospital is doing well."
Dr Vatsala Trivedi of the Zonal Transport Coordination Centre, which coordinates all kidney transplants from deceased donors, told TOI, "It is good to realise that there is a lot of awareness in Mumbai. Of the six deceased donors in the city this year, in four of the cases it were the families who came forward on their own."
In 2007, Mumbai has had six deceased donors this year, two coming in the last one month. The Borges family had another aim in donating his organs. "My younger sister is getting married at Our Lad of Lourdes Church in Kandivli on December 29. We felt that if we donate his organs, he would be very much around to bless her on her wedding day," says Shirley. Their attempts to find out the recipients ("so that we could invite them") were turned down by the doctors due to the rules laid down by the Transplantation Act. "We abide by the rules but it is good to know that he is still around in some way."