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PGI’s first heart transplant survivor wants to join Army

punjab Updated: May 09, 2016 17:03 IST
Tanbir Dhaliwal
Tanbir Dhaliwal
Hindustan Times
heart transplant

A poster of PGIMER to promote organ donation.

Playing with his siblings in the courtyard, Rohit (name changed) is making the most of the new lease of life gifted to him by an organ donor. The 15-year-old has returned from Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) earlier this week, after spending nearly eight months there. The boy’s case is the region’s first successful heart transplant performed at the PGIMER.

Rohit, who aspires to become an Army officer, said “I am happy that I am home. I missed playing with my siblings all these months.”

On September 17, 2015, at 6pm Rohit at a gurdwara in Fatehabad (Haryana), when his father’s phone rang. “Reach PGIMER within four hours. We have arranged a heart donor and Rohit will have to undergo the heart transplant surgery tonight,” the caller hung the phone.

“I looked at my watch, it was 6pm and at 9:30pm, we were inside the PGI’s Advance Cardiac Centre, where a team of 25 doctors and other staff was waiting for us. Rohit was taken to the ICU at 10pm for the transplant surgery which continued for the 12 hours,” says Gurtej Singh (name changed), Rohit’s father.

Rohit would often complain of breathlessness, would find it difficult to climb stairs and playing outdoor games. Nobody, however, thought that the child was suffering from dilated cardio-myopathy (a condition where heart’s muscles are weak and chances of death due to cardiac arrest are high).

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Rohit was diagnosed with the disease in August 2014, when he contracted jaundice and underwent 6-month-long treatment at Hisar. Later, he was referred to the PGIMER, Chandigarh.

Dr A Bahl, cardiologist at the PGIMER, who treated Rohit, said, “The child had dilated cardio-myopathy (weakness of heart muscles), because of which he was suffering from breathlessness on exertions and he was not able to climb one floor. There were chances of progressive heart failure and risk of sudden death.”

For five months, doctors put him on medication, but his condition did not improve. Then, the doctors decided that the heart transplant is the only solution left.

“Doctor Bahl told me heart transplant was the only option left to save Rohit. I knew the patient who had undergone first transplant survived only for five months. But I gave my consent, reposing trust in doctors and God,” Gurtej said.

The transplant was performed on the night of September 17, 2015 and Rohit remained in the hospital for seven-and-half months. The surgery was performed by Dr T Shyam K Singh, head, cardiovascular surgery.

Gurtej said, “The doctors and staff were very cooperative. Dr Bahl visited my son every single day without taking an off. He would bring him gifts and spend time with him. Dr T Shyam (the surgeon) would bring special soap for my son, and Dr GD Puri would bring gifts.”

He said nurses and doctors used to bring home-made food for Rohit and narrate stories to him. “As I could not afford the entire treatment cost , the staff helped us financially as well,” he said.

Dr Bahl said the first year after the transplant is crucial. “But Rohit is doing fine and his condition is improving. He had TB, some lymph node, diarrhoea which lasted for a month, protozoa infection, CMV (viral infection), fungal infection in scalp and other health issues,” Dr Bahl informed.

“I am thankful to the doctors and especially to the heart donor. They have given a new lease of life to my child,” Rohit’s mother said, as she becomes emotional.