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Times of India
25 August 2010

Showing The Way In Cadaver Transplants
Minutes after an Indian’s heart started beating inside a 65–yearold American, Ronald Lemmer, last month, there were celebrations at the 25–year–old Apollo Hospital. Not just because the heart transplant was a success –the hospital had, symbolically, achieved something much greater.

"I built this hospital after I lost my first patient due to heart disease. He was just 39 years old and could not go to the US in time for treatment. I promised myself that I will bring international care to Chennai. Now, the heart we transplanted will beat in the US," said Dr Prathap C Reddy, chairman of Apollo Hospitals. "But this could not have happened if the state did not push for an organ registry and promote cadaver organ donations. Our city is truly the capital of cadaver organ transplant in the country," he said.

When a patient is declared brain dead, mostly following heart disease, he/she is clinically dead. But vital organs like heart, kidneys, lungs and liver function with the help of life support system.

In September 2008, when the parents of A Hitendran (19) – Dr Ashokan and Dr Pushpanjali – were told that their son was brain dead, they agreed to donate all his organs. "My house has never been the same after he left us. His death changed us for ever. We learnt that we can prolong the life of organs and help several others," said Dr Ashokan. The ailing heart of a nine–yearold girl, Abirami, was replaced with Hitendran’s heart. She lived for almost a year with the heart.

"But the story had a ripple effect," said Dr J Amalorpavanathan, co–ordinator of state organ transplant registry, which began functioning a little after the Hitendran’s death. The number of cadaver donations in the state touched 111 on July 31, 2010. "In the last two years, we received calls from several parts of the state for organ donations. Those who have donated include even people who are uneducated," he said.

The registry networks with hospitals and allocates organs based on demand. "We don’t yet have a waiting list. But we have decided that that the first choice will be patients from the state. If we find none, we then offer them to other states. The foreign patients will be the last in the line of preference," said Dr Sunil Shroff, a member of the advisory committee of the state cadaver organ transplant registry.

Besides Lemmer, the registry has allotted a liver to a 69–year–old Iraqi patient.
State health secretary VK Subburaj said the government had plans to hard–sell cadaver registry. "Though the number of donations have increased in the state, we still have a long way to go. In countries like Spain the rate of cadaver organ transplants exceeds that of the organ transplants from relatives (live–related transplant). With the number of people being declared brain dead in the city, we too have the option of ruling out live–related transplants," he said.

Several donor families have themselves launched campaigns. The AP Hitendran Trust run by Dr Ashokan and Dr Pushpanjali, NGOs like the Mohan Foundation organise awareness programmes for the public.

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