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NEW DELHI: For six months, 57-year-old Girdhar Singh was on a wing and a prayer. On a high priority list for a cadaveric heart for transplant, Singh had been unlucky twice: on the first occasion, the donor’s family backed out and, on the second, the donor himself suffered a cardiac arrest.
On Tuesday, Singh got third-time lucky when family members of a 30-year-old accident victim decided to donate his organs. His heart was airlifted from Jaipur to Sir , allowing cardiac surgeons to give Singh a new lease of life. But not before a green corridor was created from the IGI Airport to the hospital for its transport.
Singh was suffering from “heart failure” for almost half a year. Unlike common perception, doctors say, a heart failure doesn’t mean that the organ has stopped or is about to stop working. It means that the heart is not able to pump blood in the way it should due to which the patient cannot perform his daily activities. In Singh’s case, doctors said, the heart had swollen by nearly 50% its original size – from 5.5cm to 8.5cm.
Dr Sujay Shad, director of ’s heart transplantation programme, told TOI: “Singh had long suffered from heart disease and had undergone three angioplasties. An was also implanted with full dosage of medications to keep his heart running. Despite that, he remained short of breath. Without a transplant, he wouldn’t have survived beyond a few more months.”
Shad said that the hospital was informed about the availability of a healthy heart by the National Organ and Tissue Transplantation Organisation on Tuesday with a rider that the donation must take place by early afternoon as per the request of the donor family.
“Since time was of the essence, we decided to fly to Jaipur for the retrieval process. A team of surgeons was quickly organised and readied with necessary documentation. Surgical equipment was loaded onto waiting cars. A plane was chartered to fly to and from Jaipur, flight manifests were prepared and security clearances obtained. The journey back from the donor hospital included creation of a green corridor by the Delhi traffic police from the IGI airport to SGRH,” Shad added.
Unlike a kidney or a liver, the window period for post-retrieval from the donor is far lower. Hence, the doctors said, another team of surgeons prepared Singh for surgery. As soon as the heart arrived, the procedure was started and, within four and a half hours, it was beating in the 57-year-old.
Around 1 million Indians suffer from end-stage heart failure at any given time. The number of patients requiring a heart transplant would be at least 1,000, say doctors, but less than 50 undergo the procedure per year due to lack of donors.
After a successful surgery, a patient can expect to live for over a decade. The longest post-transplant survivor enjoyed 33 extra years, said a doctor.