After a hiatus of three years, Seema Khan, 32, has become the 26th patient to undergo a heart transplant at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) on October 17. India’s first heart transplant was performed at AIIMS in 1994.
It took Dr Balram Airan, head of the cardiothoracic and vascular surgery department, and his team seven hours to complete the transplant. “Seema’s post-surgery recovery is smooth and she should be discharged in about three weeks,” said a doctor from the surgical team.
Diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy — a condition in which heart becomes weak and enlarged and is unable to pump blood efficiently — in 2007, Seema’s condition deteriorated six months ago. She almost stopped responding to medicines and was recommended a heart transplant.
“Seema had become bedridden as any slightest movement would leave her breathless,” said her husband KP Khan, 39, a Delhi-based businessman, who had started working from home to be with Seema all the time. Three months ago, the couple had registered at AIIMS for receiving the organ.
Unlike some patients who resign to their fate rather than undergo a transplant, Seema went ahead.
“She was fourth on the waiting list; one person had died and the other two refused surgery due to fear,” said the doctor. The heart was donated by an Army officer, who was declared brain dead at the Army Research and Referral Hospital.
“I am glad, I went for it. It feels so much better now,” said Seema. The couple’s 12-year-old son Sahil helped them prepare mentally for the major surgery. “He searched the Internet and retrieved every bit of the relevant data on heart transplant. He even showed us videos of the surgery that helped us make up our minds,” said KP Khan. “In fact, when we got a call from AIIMS that they had got the matching organ, I got nervous, but Seema didn’t,” he added.
At any given time, there are more than 15 people waiting to receive the organ.
“Lack of donors increases the wait period, and many die till their number comes. A fairly large number suffers from mental blockage and drop out at the last minute. Money plays a crucial role too; though the surgery is done at a nominal price, not many can afford even that amount,” said the doctor.