A heart from a brain-dead road accident victim in Patna was flown across 500km and transplanted four hours later into a 45-year-old man in a Calcutta hospital days before the nation-wide lockdown came into force.
Amit Kumar Dey, a trader from a village in Nadia, has recovered well after the transplant and is expected to go home in a day or two, said doctors at Medica Superspecialty Hospital.
“The patient is stable. He can move on his own. We hope to discharge him in a day or two,” said a Medica official. The doctors have explained details of post-operative care — including sanitising the home and timely medication — to his family members as well as the local hospital.
Dey was admitted to Medica on February 17, after spending a few days at a hospital in Kalyani after a cardiac arrest. Tests revealed that he had been suffering from ischaemic cardiomyopathy, a condition that decreases the heart’s ability to pump blood because of enlargement of its main pumping chamber, the left ventricle.
Doctors at Medica advised transplant and Dey was enlisted with the Regional Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation (ROTTO). “His name was put on the priority list after he suffered two cardiac arrests at the hospital and remained critical on advanced life support,” said an official of the hospital.
By the first week of March, as the doctors were getting anxious about the spread of Covid-19, it became more unlikely that Dey would get a donor. But just days before the lockdown, there was a sliver of hope.
“We were informed by ROTTO that a donor heart was available at Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Science in Patna. Dey was chosen as the recipient for the transplant after his blood group, body weight and other parameters matched with that of a donor, a 17-year-old boy who faced a fatal road accident,” said Kunal Sarkar, cardiothoracic surgeon who headed the transplant team.
The donor was declared brain-dead at the Patna hospital and his family consented to donating his organs. A team from Medica flew to Patna to harvest the heart from the patient.
Concerted efforts of multiple agencies — including cops in Patna, Bidhannagar and Calcutta — facilitated a green-channel transportation of the organ to Calcutta.
The surgery to retrieve the heart was completed by 1pm in Patna on March 18. The heart, weighing around 500gm, was brought on an IndiGo flight that landed in Calcutta at 2.15pm.
The transplant surgery at Medica started at 2.55pm. A team of doctors headed by Sarkar and including Sandip Sardar, Arpan Chakraborty, Dipanjan Chatterjee and Soumyajit Ghosh completed the surgery by 5pm. “Ideally, a heart should be transplanted within four hours of being harvested,” Sarkar said.
Dey, who owns a hardware store in Debagram, around 40km from Krishnagar, attended a virtual news conference along with the doctors on Monday. “I have a six-year-old daughter. I want to go home and spend as much time with her as possible,” he said before thanking the doctors for what he called a “second chance at life”.