Updated: September 28, 2021 9:28:29 pm
— Barely two months after his heart transplant in 2017, Ravikant Thoke, a sales manager at a pharma firm in the city, could commence work. Four years and a Covid-19 recovery later, the 44-year-old continues to travel with ease for business for a fortnight every month.
— Shalini Panchal, who turned 51 recently, underwent a heart transplant nine months ago and recovered from Covid-19 after a fortnight-long treatment in the ICU this year.
— Solapur-based Ujwala Kashid, 54, underwent the first heart transplant performed in March 2017 in Pune. She recalls how difficult it was then to even walk a few steps without getting breathless. Four years later, she travels to Pune to meet her son and help him raise her grandchild.
— Pooja Shinde, 34, who has had a “diseased heart” for long, says a transplant improved her quality of life. She now works from home for a corporate firm.
Across the state, as many as 163 heart transplants have been performed in the last five years — a majority of them in Mumbai and Pune. Experts say that some of these recipients had contracted Covid during the pandemic but deaths due to the infection have been rare.
Recovery after transplant can be challenging and while getting the most from a new heart and ensuring quality of life requires a strong commitment, cardiologists, on the occasion of World Heart Day (September 29), have appealed to everyone to improve their heart health and keep diseases at bay.
According to public health estimates, heart disease is the number one cause of mortality and a silent epidemic among Indians.
Dr Jagdish Hiremath, noted cardiologist at the heart transplant department at Ruby Hall Clinic, which has performed the largest number of heart transplants in Pune, said this procedure is mainly for patients with end-stage disease. “These are immuno-suppressed patients and like other transplant patients, they can catch infection quickly. However, if they are fine without any complications by the end of the year (of the transplant), then everything has fallen in place,” Dr Hiremath said.
One of the most significant risks after a heart transplant is the body rejecting the donor’s heart. Dr Manoj Durairaj, Director of heart transplant programme at Sahyadri Hospital, who has been involved in 25 heart transplant operations across various hospitals, said that selection of the right recipient for the donor heart is important. “If the patient has been stable with medication then we choose as young a donor as possible. Post-operative outcome depends on the selection of the donor heart,” Dr Durairaj said.
Cardiologists, however, made a strong case for making efforts to prevent diseases and also ensure that the cost of the therapy is affordable.
In Pune, according to Aarti Gokhale, central coordinator, Zonal Transplant Coordination Committee (ZTCC), said there were a total of 35 heart transplants in the Pune region since 2017. Heart transplant patients may be at increased risk of mortality from Covid-19 due to co-morbidities, she added.
Dr Abhijit Lodha, physician at Ruby Hall Clinic, said the hospital had seen four heart transplant patients who had been infected with Covid-19. “Three patients recovered. One patient, who had gone back to his place in Raigad district, had not taken the immuno-suppressant drugs regularly. Post-transplant care is essential,” Dr Lodha added.
Dr Akash Shukla, Joint Director, Regional Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation, said, “People impacted with Covid were few and there were not many deaths.” Dr Shukla said while an approximate 40 heart transplants took place each year from 2017 to 2019, the numbers declined owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. “However, awareness has to be stepped up as not many know about heart transplant operations,” Dr Shukla told The Indian Express.
“We have all the technology to perform a heart transplant but these devices are costly. They also need maintenance. Preventing heart disease is important,” said Dr A G K Gokhale, a recipient of Padma Shri and former President of Indian Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation.
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