An American has successful heart transplant in India

Thursday, August 5, 2010

CHENNAI - Sixty-five-year-old US citizen Ronald Lemmer’s heart is expected to beat for India after his successful heart transplant operation here.

He is the first American to undergo a heart transplant in India. He is also the oldest person to undergo a heart transplant operation in India.

“The US doctors said that my husband would not survive if operated in India. We checked with an Indian doctor who is our friend there. He assured us about the safety and we came to India,” Shelly Lemmer told reporters here.

“In the US there is a long waiting list of recipients for heart transplant,” Lemmer said.

The couple came to India in May and Lemmer was admitted to Apollo Hospital.

“We were in discussion with the American couple since March this year. They came here in May and Lemmer was operated upon in July,” senior cardiothoracic surgeon Paul Ramesh told IANS.

According to Ramesh, the Lemmer case was a bit complicated as he had a previous bypass surgery, an angioplasty with coronary stents and a pacemaker.

In the US, Lemmer was told that he had a mortality chance of 80 percent.

The other challenge was that the transplant was an inter-racial one and the human leucocyte antigen (HLA) has to match.

“The HLA will be an exact match only between identical twins. Between siblings it would slightly differ. The difference will be high between two different races,” Ramesh added.

Fortunately for Lemmer, he was able to get the heart of a 36-year-old man who was declared brain dead after a road accident.

Necessary compatibility tests - height, weight, blood and others - were done and permission from the Transplant Coordination Committee was obtained to carry out the operation, Ramesh said.

Today Lemmer is walking around like a normal person and is planning to return to the US Aug 10.

“The success of a transplant operation is determined not only by increasing the longevity of the patient but also in improvement in the quality of life he leads post operation,” Ramesh said.

According to him, Lemmer’s quality of life will be better henceforth.

The surgeon said equally interesting are the cases of Kasturirangan, who underwent a heart transplant a year back, and Piyush, who is two and a half years post-transplant and leading normal life.

“For Kasturirangan it is a transgender transplant operation. He now has the heart of a woman,” Ramesh said.

“In the last 25 years we have done 38,000 heart operations in Apollo Hospital and 28,000 are coronary by-pass operations,” chief cardio vascular surgeon M.R. Girinath said.

According to him, 11,500 operations are beat heart surgeries.

“In India heart transplants are done only in cities like Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Cochin and Bangalore. In the last 15 years, only 100 heart transplants have been done in India of which 10 were done at Apollo Hospital in Chennai,” he said.

He said organ transplant operations are subject to various uncertainties and challenges like availability of organ, logistics and coordination with different medical teams - the one that harvests the organ and the other that fixes it in the recipient.

According to Ramesh, heart transplant operations that are not complicated would cost anything between Rs.800,000 to Rs.1 million.

Filed under: Medicine

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