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Times of India
05 August 2010
By Risha Chitlangia
New Delhi, India

Paramjeet Singh (right) with his wifeParamjeet Singh (right) with his wife
Fifty–six–year–old Paramjeet Singh is happy to have “got a second birth”. When Singh was diagnosed with end–stage heart failure (advanced dilated cardiomyopathy) five years back, doctors told him he had only six months left. For such patients, doctors say, heart transplant is the only solution but a severe shortage of donors makes it extremely difficult to find a beating heart in time.

Singh is one of the lucky few as not only did he get a donor, but he also survived the most complicated surgery. And at Army Research and Referral Hospital, he is the first heart transplant patient to have survived for six months post surgery.

“I have been in and out of hospitals for the past five years. My wife and daughters used to constantly give me strength,” said Singh, a retired Armyman who fought the famous battle of Longewala during the 1971 war.

When Paramjeet was told about the option of a heart transplant he was quick to give consent despite the fact that organ rejection rate is very high in such cases. “I was almost on my death bed. This was my only chance to get a new life. It was a gamble, but one worth playing. When I got a call that a donor was available, I didn’t waste a second. I told my family that I had to go for this transplant,” said Singh, a resident of Alwar.

Singh underwent the complicated surgery on March 23. “After getting the consent from the donor’s family, we immediately called up Singh. Some basic tests were carried out on Singh and the donor to ensure zero chances of organ rejection. Usually, we check the condition of the donor’s heart through an angiography, but in this case it wasn’t required as the donor had undergone an angiography a few months back and we had his records,” said Col SS Sidhu, senior advisor surgery and cardiothoracic surgery, Army Hospital.

Doctors first harvested the heart that had to be transplanted. “After harvesting the heart, we carried out a small surgery–called bench surgery–in which the heart was closely examined. It was then prepared for the transplant,” said Dr Lt Col Sameer Kumar, who was part of the team. Added Dr Lt Col P Mukherjee, “We started operating on the recipient only after we were confident about the new heart.”

It took doctors close to four–and–a–half hours to complete the transplant. Singh has survived for nearly six months post surgery and is doing absolutely fine. “He could climb the stairs within weeks after the surgery. He was comfortable. We have done three transplant till now, but unfortunately we lost the first two patients within the first month itself,” added Col Sidhu.

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