In November 2016, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had tweeted about her kidney failure and her subsequent wait for a donor’s kidney. During the same time, a report published by NDTV suggested that around 1.6 lakh patients in India are waiting for organs with merely 12,000 available donors. Regular dialysis has to take place during a patient’s wait for a donor.
NephroPlus is a dialysis service provider, and co-founder Kamal Shah has a personal story behind starting it.
Kamal writes about his journey on his blog and says that the year 1997 was life-changing in many aspects. After having received the coveted US student visa, Kamal went to the Institute of Preventive Medicine to get his vaccination shots completed. He got the Hepatitis B, Typhoid, Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccinations and was assured that a slight fever was a common after-effect of the shots.
He did develop a slight fever that evening and did not think much about it. Within 24 hours, his condition had worsened, and fever was now accompanied by nausea.
A visit to the doctor and some tests revealed that he had Atypical Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (AHUS) and would need a kidney transplant. The wait was a long one, and the transplant was finally scheduled for November 1998.
Unfortunately, just 11 days after the surgery, things were not right. On the 20th day, doctors found that they had to begin dialysis once again because Kamal’s AHUS had returned.
For six years, Kamal underwent Peritoneal Dialysis (PD). During the 2004 Tsunami, he was in Mahabalipuram with his friends. The experience was horrific, and he caught an infection which did not subside easily. He could no longer continue with PD.
In 2005, Kamal starting writing a blog to express his feelings. The blog was read by Vikram Vuppala, a seasoned healthcare strategy consultant with McKinsey.
In December 2009, the company, NephroPlus, was registered and in March 2010, the first centre was opened in Hyderabad with ten employees.
Today, the company has 140 more centres across the country, including those in Bengaluru, Agra and Ludhiana. Since they offer specialised dialysis centres, one factor that has been responsible for the overwhelming response has been their charges, which are 30-40% lower than those in hospitals like Max or Apollo. As reported in Economic Times, their proof of concept helped raise investment from the international fund, Bessemer Venture Partners, in November 2011.
They also have unique concepts that enable patients to lead normal lives despite their condition. ‘Holiday Dialysis‘, for instance, allows patients to enjoy a vacation in places like Goa, Dehradun and Rishikesh; while ‘Dialysis Olympiad’ is a one-day event where patients are treated as “guests” and invited to participate in Olympic-style sporting events with prize-distribution as well.
NephroPlus plans to set up 500 centres over the next three years and provide cost-effective dialysis centres. The company is also in talks to establish a centre overseas and hopefully by the end of the year should be able to do so.
Personally, Kamal is doing well and says, “I am in a good space at the moment. While my daily nocturnal home hemodialysis continues, I do everything that regular people do. I swim each morning and often go on holidays. I also went on an Alaskan cruise and ensure that I meet other patients regularly.”
We wish Kamal the very best and hope that his company is able to make life meaningful for many others.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)