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Heart travels from Chandigarh to Fortis Escorts, Delhi in just 2 hours to save life of 13-year-old

Doctors at Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, New Delhi performed a life-saving heart transplant on a 13-year-old child from Agra. This 6th heart transplant at FEHI was made possible when a 32-year-old female, a resident of Faridabad, was declared brain dead at PGI Hospital in Chandigarh after being on ventilator support for three weeks. The family of the donor consented to donate organs; i.e. heart, kidneys, and liver following informed counselling, following which the harvested heart was flown down to Delhi. 

The Cardiac Transplant Team from FEHI flew down to PGI Hospital, Chandigarh and retrieved the heart from the donor at 11.20 am. The police and traffic authorities immediately created a green corridor for transferring the harvested heart to Delhi. The heart left in an ambulance from PGI Hospital following a pre-decided route to reach the airport. It was swiftly moved into a chartered flight to reach IGI Airport by 1 pm. A green corridor was created, covering a distance of 18 kilometers in barely 18 minutes at 1.23 pm, despite the heavy traffic. 

The child recipient was suffering from a heart failure due to viral myocarditis and had an EF (ejection fraction) of barely 15-20% (normal heart functions at 55-60%).  After two prior admissions at FEHI in the past one year due to heart failure, this was the third time that the child had been admitted after his condition deteriorated. The child was under the treatment of Dr S Radhakrishnan, Director, Paediatric Cardiology, FEHI and Dr Vishal Rastogi, Consultant and Incharge, Heart Failure & Left Ventricular Assist Program, FEHI.

The transplant was conducted by Dr Z S Meharwal, Director of Cardiovascular Surgery and Transplant Surgery, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute who explained how this transplant was made possible. “When we first heard that the donor was a 32-year-old person, it looked that the match might not be possible. This child is second time lucky since a heart was brought in a few months ago from an elderly patient and hence could not be put in his body. This time, the body weight of the donor was around that of the recipient and hence their chest cavities were nearly comparable, though we still had to use special techniques to connect arteries of the donor heart with those of the recipient. This enabled us to carry on with the transplant,” said Dr Meharwal.

“The recipient had viral infection which had affected his heart. Such patients usually recover in a matter of six months to a year. However, in this case, his condition rapidly deteriorated which lead to heart failure,” explained Dr Radhakrishnan. “The child was very sick and was in urgent need of a heart transplant. He had also suffered a stroke a couple of months ago due to his failing heart and was admitted in the ICU for close to a month. In fact we had two more patients with a matching blood group on the list, however, this teenager got priority because of his critical condition,” explained Dr Rastogi.

Speaking on organ donations, Dr Ashok Seth, Chairman, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute and Head, Cardiology Council, Fortis Healthcare said, India suffers from a paucity of voluntary Organ Donation and the noble and brave donation of this 32 year young girl and her family has provided hope of life to not just our 13 year old recipient but at least four other lives that they have saved. Such exemplary acts are a reminder to all that how numerous patients awaiting organs who are close to death can be 'Given back a life '. It was unfortunate that we did not get the cooperation of the commercial airlines in bringing the heart from Chandigarh to Delhi, and thus did so in a chartered flight. If more patients have to be saved in a timely and affordable manner through organ donation, then  intercity transfer across States would have to become a norm and I would urge the Ministry of Aviation to consider regulations in which all stakeholders including airlines develop policies to become an integral part of this life saving effort.

Dr Somesh K Mittal, Zonal Director, FEHI, said, “We have come a long way since we conducted our first heart transplant here. Our team is humbled by the donations made by the donor families to save so many lives. We are indebted to the swift and timely support from NOTTO, Clinicians & Nursing staff, Police & Traffic authorities and the kin of donors, who made the transplant, a reality.”

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