Organ Donation: Amidst pandemic heart flown from Pune to Chennai via green corridor for a successful transplant

Amidst a thousand news notifications of loss, despair, gloom, there are moments of hope that makes us look forward to life, with positivity. One such incident took place in Chennai on Monday. Despite the enormous challenges posed during these COVID-19 times – lockdowns and movement restrictions, and flight unavailability, MGM Healthcare, a multi-specialty quaternary care hospital in Chennai, on Monday announced the successful completion of a second critical heart transplant in the hospital since the lockdown began.

The heart transplantation was led by Dr. K. R. Balakrishnan, Chairman & Director of Cardiac Sciences and Director of the Heart and Lung Transplant Program at MGM Healthcare, along with his team of transplant specialists including Dr. Suresh Rao K. G. and Dr. Srinath V. The organ transplantation regulatory authorities and surgeons from Pune extended their full support in making this heart transplant a success especially considering that it occurred during the COVID times.

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The transplant was performed on a 37-year-old lady from Chennai. She had been suffering from ischemic cardiomyopathy. The patient was suffering from end-stage heart failure and the transplant was the only form of survival.

On August 15, 2020, MGM Healthcare received an alert about a 39-year-old brain dead female patient at a private hospital in Pune. The cause of her brain death was reported to be Brain Hemorrhage.

MGM Healthcare immediately confirmed the requirement as the recipient was already registered in the waiting list handled by National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation (NOTTO). Post-registration, she was waiting for a suitable donor. Once the deceased patient in Pune was identified based on medical compatibility, the recipient was informed about the possibility of the possible transplant taking place, awaiting consent from the donor’s family.

The biggest challenge faced was the non-availability of any commercial flight between Pune and Chennai around the organ retrieval time. As the transplant was funded by the Tamil Nadu Govt scheme and no commercial flight was not available arranging a chartered flight was challenging. We approached Aishwarya trust for the same and Mrs. Chitra was kind enough to sponsor the same and an air ambulance was arranged” said Dr. K R Balakrishnan, chairman and director of Cardiac Sciences, and director of the heart and lung transplant program, at the hospital to The Hindu. 

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The hospital said that the police department in both Pune and Chennai created “green corridors” and cleared the roads for the ambulances to travel without any delay between the airports and the hospitals.  

The donor organ landed in Chennai at 6:30 P.M. on August 16, 2020. The ambulance carrying the organ reached MGM Healthcare from Chennai Airport in 11 minutes, which under normal traffic conditions would take anywhere between an hour to an hour and a half.

The transplant surgery was commenced immediately. The team included transplant specialists K.G. Suresh Rao and V. Srinath. Dr. Rao said that the transplant was successfully completed by 9 p.m. and the patient was recovering well. After the transplant, the patient was moved to ICU for observation and will be under the watchful eyes of the doctors for some time to track the progress of the recovery and how compatible the donor organ is with the recipient’s body.

Commenting on the transplant Dr. Suresh Rao said: “The Heart transplant was successfully performed by 9:00 pm and the patient is off the ventilator and doing well”.

Speaking on the occasion, Harish Manian, CEO, MGM Healthcare said to The Hindu, “This is indeed a proud moment for MGM Healthcare…an instance where despite the challenges posed on account of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, various state machinery including the Traffic Police Department, Airport Authorities, Air Ambulance seamlessly collaborated to reach the organ to our hospital in the shortest possible time, becoming an integral part of our ‘Healthcare Movement’. I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and everyone who supported us in giving a fresh lease of life to the young lady.”

It is important that incidents like this inspire citizens to sign up for organ donation, and spread awareness so that countless lives like these can be saved.

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