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She’ll never be told who the donor is, but Sunita Devi (44) is grateful to the person whose heart is now pumping her blood and keeping her alive. “God bless the family,” said Devi, who underwent heart transplantation on May 17, at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, making it the 30th heart transplant in Delhi and the first in a private hospital.
India’s first heart transplant was done at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (Aiims) on August 3, 1994, which has done 26 since then. With three successful transplants, Army Research & Referral is the only other hospital to have done heart transplants in Delhi. The donor, whose name has been withheld on the family’s request, was diagnosed brain dead on May 17.
“The family agreed to donate all the organs and we were thrilled to discover that the heart perfectly matched a patient needing transplant who was admitted three days ago. Without wasting time, we wheeled her into the operation theatre and by 9pm, the transplant was complete,” said Dr Sujay Shad, director, heart transplant unit, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, who led the team that did the surgery.
In India, only 70 heart transplants have been done in 17 years because very few families agree to donating organs. For every 10,000 people needing a heart transplant each year, only four are lucky enough to get a new heart that lets them live.
“The shortage of cadaver donations is a problem, as is the ability to retrieve the heart and find a match at hand within six hours of the patient being declared brain dead.
Last year, there were 90 donations in Chennai, but only 12 hearts could be transplanted,” said Dr Shad. Under a union health ministry project, 40 hospitals in Delhi have been identified as transplant and retrieval hospitals or retrieval hospitals only.