Pravin Singh, 25, became the 27th person to undergo a successful heart transplant at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). He underwent the surgery on April 3.
“Pravin is lucky. He got a donor within a month of diagnosis. Most people who need a heart transplant die waiting for a donor,” said Dr Balram Airan, professor of cardiothoracic and vascular surgery at AIIMS, who led the team that did the surgery.
Doctors at AIIMS, which is the only centre doing heart transplants in northern India, say finding donors is their biggest problem. “We have the expertise and there are many competent surgeons to do transplants but donor shortage has been a setback. At times, the few donors we get don’t always have hearts healthy enough for transplant, making heart transplantation rare,” said Airan.
Surgeons at AIIMS have done the largest number of heart transplants in the country and also more than the rest of the centres in Chennai, Hyderabad and Kochi put together.
“The heart transplant programme at AIIMS has had excellent results, with recipient Devi Ram healthy after 14 years and Mahavir after 12 years. Preeti Unhale, who now works with AIIMS, is also doing very well 7 years after a transplant,” said Dr Airan, who was part of Dr P. Venugopal’s team when he did India’s first heart transplant on August 3, 1994.
Pravin Singh’s surgery began at 8 pm and got over at 1 am. The procedures involved over two-dozen surgeons and supporting staff.
“The donor was a road accident victim whose family also donated his kidneys, pancreas, cornea and liver. All the donated organs were retrieved and implanted at AIIMS except the liver, which was sent to the Army Research & Referral Hospital for transplantation. Even in death, the donor saved and changed many lives,” said Dr Aarti Vij, director, Organ Retrieval and Banking Organisation at AIIMS.