Saroop Singh, 45, of Longowal in Sangrur district of Punjab kept waiting for five months for a heart transplant at the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh. He passed away on June 21, as the process never moved further than intent.
The institute performed its first heart transplant on August 4 last year after putting in efforts for almost a decade. But, more than a year later, the programme has failed to go beyond the maiden transplant.
That transplant - the first in the northern region beyond Delhi - was performed by a team of surgeons led by Dr T Shyam K Singh, head of the PGIMER's cardiovascular and thoracic surgery (CTVS) department. It was successful and the patient lived for around five months.
Since then, sources in the PGIMER administration said, the main reason behind the slow pace of transplant programme has been the lack of awareness regarding brain death. Brain death is a condition which is irreversible; but one person's organs can save at least 10 lives.
Though the PGIMER gets a large number of brain-dead patients due to its status of a premier centre for brain injuries in north India, the traditional belief system of people makes it hard to convince them to donate organs of a person who is still technically breathing.
According to experts, a heart transplant each year is needed for a population of 10,000.
When contacted, the PGIMER spokesperson said that though they had had brain-dead donors, none of them was fit for heart transplant. "So we transplanted their other organs, like liver, kidneys and cornea," she said.