Reena Raju

Light a Life with Organ Donation

Given the opportunity to live life once again thanks to the generosity of an organ donor, Reena, a former hockey player at the university national level, took the brave decision to step out in the open and show people and patients what organ donation and heart transplantation can do in one’s life. She is the founder of ‘Light A Life- Reena Raju Foundation’, a registered charitable trust to make organ transplantation a viable option for patients in India.

"It doesn’t matter how long we live, but it matters what we do when we are alive.” -Reena Raju.

I quote my dearest friend Reena Raju -the woman with an angel’s heart. Her journey from failure to success is not only saving lives but giving hope to countless patients and inspiring all. She is the perfect example of how one can turn even a life threatening illness into victory.

Reena was 25 years old, a former hockey player at the university national level, energetic and full of life. She was working and pursuing her dreams when diagnosed with end stage heart failure. It is a condition where the heart enlarges, muscles weaken and heart function reduces to a bare minimum. A healthy heart functions between 50-70%, Reena’s heart was functioning at only 15%. She accepted her illness with courage and believed that this illness too had a purpose. She survived for almost four years with restrictions, frequent hospitalization, pain and near death experiences. She also survived the mindset of society that treats a young girl with chronic illness as ‘finished’ (or no future).

In 2009, doctors gave Reena 6 months to live with heart transplant as the only option. Heart transplant was unheard of in India. The concept of brain dead, cadaver organ donation was still new. Due to severe lack of awareness, her family registered in Chennai and she had a successful heart transplant. Her defective heart, removed and replaced with a precious donor heart, continued to beat as she became the first woman in Karnataka to live with a heart transplant.

The transplant world involves medical, financial, societal and personal challenges. With countless patients suffering and losing their lives from end stage organ failure and heart transplants rare, Reena took the brave decision to step out into the open and show people and patients what organ donation and heart transplantation can do in one’s life. Everything Reena does is in memory of her donor.

To enumerate her accomplishments:
- Six months post her Heart Transplant, that is, 19th November 2009, Reena started participating in various activities like sports, giving talks, performing as a vocalist to reach out to the public and concerned bodies.
- She completed a 3.5km marathon a few months post-transplant to promote organ donation. Articles published created maximum awareness and even saved the life of a young man whose family went forward for a heart transplant after reading it.
- She founded ‘Light A Life- Reena Raju Foundation’ in Year 2011, a registered charitable trust to make organ transplantation a viable option for patients in India. The three main objectives of this trust are ;
1) To create nationwide awareness
2) To provide free pre/post-transplant counselling to patient/patient families in India
3) To raise funds to gift life-saving medicines to needy organ recipients through facebook.com/ReenaRajuFoundation/

- She completed an 8 km cyclothon to promote organ donation.
- Sang and featured in a Kannada song to increase the number of deceased organ donations in the state.
- Parasailed and did a 15 ft underwater sea walk.
- Name entered in the Limca Book of Records for her numerous contributions and achievements in the field of organ transplantation in India.
- Recognized and awarded by the Honourable Health Minister of India, Shri J. P. Nada, for her contribution in the field, organized by National Organ & Tissue Transplantation Organization in Delhi in November 2016.
- Did a 13,000 ft Tandem skydive in December 2016.

Reena became the first female transplant athlete in India to represent the country in the World Transplant Games held in June 2017 at Malaga, Spain.

She was also chosen as one of the four transplant athletes from across the world to feature in the World Transplant Games Magazine 2017- Road to Malaga.

Having many ‘ firsts’ to her credit and being the most featured and successful heart recipient in India and abroad, Reena continues to live by her vision and lives against all odds.

There is much to speak about my dear friend, Reena. I call her my angel for the way she lives her life. She not only continues to inspire me every day but is a beacon of hope and strength to many who reach out to her. I believe that she truly is an inspirational woman.


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