The Kidney Foundation of Canada

Kidney Stories

Physician's Family Takes to Social Media to Raise Awareness about the Need for More Organ Donors

Meet the Joshi Family and family friend Drew Campbell

By: Mary Baxter

As an internal medicine specialist at a busy hospital in the GTA, Dr. Kamal Joshi saw the sickest of patients, including some with kidney failure.

Earlier this year, Dr. Joshi joined their ranks when his own kidneys failed. “I had developed glomerulonephritis in 2005 and was stable for quite a while, until last year when the kidney function started to deteriorate and quite quickly,” the 60-year-old doctor explains.

Having medical knowledge did not soothe the emotional impact of his new circumstances. “I knew it would be a major lifestyle change.”

Today, Dr. Joshi uses home hemodialysis while he waits for an organ transplant. He’s been too ill to work. A new kidney would mean a chance to return to his life’s calling — helping others regain their health.

But that wait could last years — about eight years, he’s been told, for a cadaveric transplant. So he’s begun the search for a living donor employing a most unusual approach.

It all started when his son, Rajiv, and Rajiv’s childhood friend Drew Campbell, approached him with the idea of searching for a live donor using social media. Inspired by similar campaigns in the United States and Canada, the pair wanted to establish a Facebook page and website to reach out to potential donors.

At first, Dr. Joshi doubted such a venture would succeed. “I’m in the age group that’s not totally connected to social media,” he explains.

But within weeks of its launch, the campaign went viral.

“Certain posts have been getting upward of 4,000 views,” says Rajiv Joshi. They’ve been deluged with emails from people asking if they can help. One person is already undergoing testing to determine compatibility, and several others have expressed their intent to initiate the testing process. Some relatives are being tested as well.

“It’s marvelous,” says Dr. Joshi.

Although the search continues, he’s optimistic that he’ll find a donor within the next couple of years. For this dedicated doctor, however, the campaign is already a success, regardless of whether it produces a compatible donor.

Dr. Joshi knows it’s helped raise awareness of the need for live donors for organ transplantation and several of those who have responded will take that first, crucial step towards delivering help — registering to be an organ donor. So if the quest to save his own life results in saving the lives of others, well, all the better, he says.