Gifted Heart gave her year of Happiness
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15 September 2009
The gifting of a heart not only prolonged Abirami’s childhood – and life – by one more year, but also gave a huge push to cadaver transplant in Chennai which in turn snatched many from the jaws of death and despair. Today, her transplanted heart may not be beating anymore, but Abirami’s eyes will continue to see the world.
“We remember seeing her as a happy child every time she came here for a routine examination. She rediscovered childhood. We are happy that we were able to give her what she was not able to experience earlier. But it is sad that it did not last long,” said a senior cardiologist who had treated her.
Last September, doctors at the Frontier Lifeline Hospital had provided her a fresh lease of life by replacing her diseased heart with a healthy one. Abirami was then, at 9, the youngest heart recipient in India. The heart was harvested from a teenager, Hitendran, whose parents, doctors, allowed multi–organ transplant after doctors declared him brain–dead. Hitendran’s healthy heart was taken from Nandanam to Mugappair, a distance of 13 km, in only 11 minutes – a record in Tamil Nadu.
The surgery turned out successful. Abirami soon got back to school, she was able to play with her siblings and even go joyriding in theme parks. As her health improved, the cadaver transplant programme in Chennai grew. In the past one year, the city recorded more than 120 cadaver organ transplants, a figure it never achieved since 1994 when the cadaver programme was legalised.
However, things suddenly took an about–turn. In the past two weeks, cardiologists observed symptoms in Abirami that were classic features of a heart failure. And on Sunday, when doctors declared her dead following her body's rejection of the new' organ, they considered it an “Unfortunate day” in their careers.
In Abirami's case, a heart transplant was the final option after she was diagnosed with a condition called cardiomyopthy, which was not amenable for any corrective procedure. “Ever since her discharge, we had been in constant touch on a monthly basis. During her last visit, she showed symptoms consistent with that of a failing heart. Her heart function was found to be poor and she was advised immediate admission for medical management. Abirami’s parents were unable to admit her and she was brought back a week later. She had poor left ventricular function, secondary to the onset of graft (heart) rejection. Due to her progressive cardiac dysfunction she did not respond well to medical management. She died on Sunday at 8pm,” said transplant surgeon Dr. K M Cherian, who heads Frontier Lifeline.
Abirami’s parents were too shocked to react. However, they donated her eyes to the Government Ophthalmic Hospital in Egmore. "They wanted someone to see the world through their daughter's eyes," Dr. Cherian said.