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A second chance at life: Double organ transplant survivor shares her story

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When Hema Tr left her staffing consultant job at Intel in 2012 to focus on her family and health, she knew she would miss it. She stayed in touch with her former colleagues over the years as she battled a rare genetic condition that led to the deterioration of her liver and kidneys. She counts herself lucky for a double organ transplant, which she finally received in 2019. Thanks to her successful procedure and subsequent recovery, in 2021, she joined Intel once again as a talent advisor.

Read on for edited excerpts from our interview with Hema, where she speaks about the organ donation that saved her life, her passion for helping others in the community and her comeback to Intel.

This is your second stint at Intel. How was your first experience and what brought you back after your career break?

My first stint with Intel was in 2011-2012 when I worked as a staffing consultant. My performance in that role was good and I stayed in touch with my colleagues even after I went on a career break. I think my earlier experience held me in good stead when I was finally ready to come back to work in 2021. It was during the pandemic, so it was a work-from-home opportunity. I applied, passed the interviews and landed the role. I feel not many organizations would have taken me after my long career break, or maybe I would have had to take a pay cut and prove myself all over again.

Intel took me despite my break of almost 10 years, knowing I would need some time to ramp up. So, coming back to corporate life, I received a very empathetic welcome. There was a learning curve, but the team was very helpful as I settled in. This is the culture that made me want to rejoin Intel, and the past one-and-a-half years have been a beautiful journey for me.

You are a vocal advocate for organ donation, being a recipient of a double organ transplant. Can you share the story behind that?

When I took a career break in 2012, it was actually for my daughter who was unwell at the time. But I also had many health issues and soon afterward, I was diagnosed with a rare metabolic disorder called primary hyperoxaluria. This is a genetic condition where the liver fails to secrete a certain enzyme and that leads to excess oxalates in the blood, which the kidneys are unable to filter. Over a period of time, the organs fail, and the only solution is to replace them.

After I delivered my second child in 2013, my health started to deteriorate. Eventually, I lost kidney function and required dialysis five, sometimes even six days a week. I was registered on the transplant list and in 2019, I finally got a donor. It was a cadaver donor because I needed a double organ transplant of a liver and kidney from the same person. I received the transplant and got a second chance at life.

Thanks for sharing that with us, and congratulations on making a recovery and coming back to Intel as well.

Yes, I count myself very lucky to have found a donor and received a successful transplant. When the pandemic hit, I was extra cautious and stayed at home for nearly three years. During this time, I started connecting with doctors and hospitals to help other people on the transplant waitlist and share with them my own experience. I’m part of the Apollo Hospitals’ counseling cell and I’ve also joined transplant networks to offer any support and information I can.

In India, people are more open to organ donation these days, but we still need to create more awareness. I want to let people know that living donors can go on to live fulfilling lives even after donating a kidney, or part of their liver, lung, pancreas or intestine. When it comes to cadaver donors, there are deep-rooted beliefs involved. I myself come from a Hindu family and our traditions say that you should keep the body intact after death. But by being an organ donor, one person can go on to save multiple lives and part of them can live on even after they are gone.

You said you got a second chance at life after your successful transplant. How has this experience changed you?

My experience made me want to step out of my shell and do more, whether it is coming back to work or helping others like me. I believe a work identity is a powerful tool. In my role as a talent advisor, I interface with the external world and represent Intel. This is a company where you don’t just have a job, you build a career. I think our employees’ careers are a testament to the wonderful culture we have.

I personally have a lot of gratitude towards Intel and sharing my story is one way of showing that. Who knows, it may help save a life someday.