The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) was faced with a unique problem earlier this week: more hearts donated for transplantation than patients available to receive them. The reason: As many as three families donated hearts, but eight of the 11 people currently registered for the complex surgery with AIIMS live in other states and could not reach Delhi within four hours. A heart has to be transplanted with four to six hours of the donor being declared brain dead.
As a result, only one of the hearts could be used. The lucky recipient was Hemant Kumar Mahato, a BTech student. The 25-year-old would not have been so lucky had he not relocated to the national capital from Kolkata for treatment. Two other matching recipients identified for the heart lived outside Delhi and could not reach in time for the transplant.
“Three recipients were identified. One lived in West Bengal and couldn’t reach in time. Another recipient, who lives in Hisar (Haryana), said he would come but got scared and didn’t show up,” said Prof Balram Airan, chief of cardiothoracic and neurosciences centre at AIIMS — India’s busiest heart transplantation centre.
According to the Organ Retrieval and Banking Organisation at AIIMS, families of eight of the 17 people declared brain dead this year agreed to donate the organs. “That is a conversion rate of 47% (up from 15% last year). It’s not easy taking such a decision at the time of sudden loss, but more and more people are willing to help others live,” said Aarti Vij, director, ORBO. However, matching recipients who live in other states and are unable to make it in time for the challenging surgery and lose out on the transplant.
In fact, of the three hearts donated over a period of 72 hours in the city, only one could be transplanted. “One heart was rejected because it was medically unfit for transplantation, while the other wasn’t used because the matching recipients could not reach Delhi in time. Since the whole heart couldn’t be used, we retrieved valves and blood vessels for transplantation,” said Dr Airan, who was part of the team that performed India’s first heart transplantation at AIIMS in 1994.
Mahato, who reached for the surgery within two hours of being informed, became the 34th patient to undergo a heart transplant at AIIMS.
“Since the team is skilled, adjustments are made when conditions are not optimal. In Mahato’s case, for example, he had had dinner when the call went through at 8.30pm. (Patients are anaesthised on an empty stomach). But the anaesthetist and cardiologists said they would prepare the patient for surgery, and they did. The surgery, which started at midnight, went off smoothly and ended at 4.15am,” said Dr Airan,
All three hearts received by AIIMS were retrieved from other hospitals — two from Apollo and one from Max Heart.