A live heart in a box snaked through narrow lanes and overcame stubborn traffic between Gurgaon and Delhi in less than a quarter of an hour to breathe new life into a teenager on Friday.
An ambulance carrying the organ from a brain-dead accident victim and another medical van leading the way hurtled from a Gurgaon hospital to the Delhi border in eight minutes but had a rough time thereafter despite travelling through a “green corridor” earmarked for the emergency.
Medical officials on the vehicles said they were left to fend for themselves while Delhi Police offered little help, as they repeatedly drove down the wrong side of streets with their sirens blaring to beat morning rush hour traffic.
“It’s a live organ transplantation where time is of great essence,” said one of them. “The organ needs to be transplanted within a few hours of retrieval for the surgery to be a success. Delhi Police did not coordinate with the ambulances and that cost us more time than expected.”
The convoy reached the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) at exactly 10.01am, completing the nearly 22km journey in 38 minutes and 55 seconds, while doctors waiting there successfully transplanted the heart into the 13-year-old boy who was battling for survival.
“We had already informed police officials of both cities regarding the movement of a live organ,” said a representative of the Fortis Memorial Research Institute (FMRI) in Gurgaon.
The back-up ambulance took the lead and cleared the route for the one carrying the heart, as the drivers made repeated announcements through the public address system, honked and even rolled down their windows to shout at stubborn commuters to make way.
Delhi Police, however, rejected charges about lack of assistance, saying the route was altered in the morning because of a massive public gathering.
“It was initially decided that they would take national highway 8, but at the last minute Gurgaon Police officials and the doctors decided on an alternate route,” said Muktesh Chander, special commissioner of police (traffic).
“I along with a dozen of my men were waiting to receive the ambulances but they never entered the stretch. No one should doubt our intentions because despite five other major commitments requiring police deployment we agreed to the heart transfer.”
The organ belonged to a 34-year-old man who was brought to FMRI on Tuesday night after he met with a road accident in Rajasthan. When doctors failed to revive him, they convinced his family to donate the victim’s heart, liver and both kidneys.