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Times of India
16 February 2011
By Malathy Iyer

Nair Hospital Team Introduced Revolutionary Method In India
Open Heart surgery’s Golden Jubilee
It was literally a hearty occasion as cardiac surgeons–some retired, many practising and many more in–training–converged at Nair Hospital’s auditorium to observe the golden jubilee of the first time a faulty heart was fixed through openheart surgery in India.

"It was here in Nair Hospital on February 15, 1961, that Dr K N Dastur performed the country’s first open–heart surgery to fix the hole in 19–year–old Hemlata’s heart," said Nair Hospital dean Dr R Rananavre on Tuesday. Two surviving members of that team, urologist Dr F P Soonawala and technician P Patel, were on the dais and received a standing ovation.

Speakers said the Nair team’s achievement should be viewed against the ground realities of that time. "Now we can easily import devices but 50 years back it was next to impossible to import a device or any equipment," said Dr K Nagale, the current head of Nair Hospital’s cardiothoracic department. Dr Dastur, who worked as an honorary doctor at the hospital, drew a blueprint of a heart–lung machine and approached a steel manufacturer to make it for which he pooled in his own money. "They then conducted canine experiments before performing the first operation," said the dean.

The biggest achievement of Nair Hospital’s surgery was the fact that it led to the setting up of open heart surgery units in various hospitals across the city and the country. "Dr Dastur himself set up the departments at Breach Candy and Nanavati Hospitals," said Dr Soonawalla.

Open Heart surgery’s Golden Jubilee
Dr Dastur’s students too went on a trip down memory lane. Dr Ratna Mangotra, the country’s first woman cardiac surgeon, paid a power–point tribute to her teacher. "He truly believed in the line that whatever we do here should be for the advancement of science and not for personal glory. He often referred to himself as a general surgeon who went wherever blood vessels did," she said.

Dr Dastur’s contemporary Dr B Kalke talked about the need for better laboratory research facilities in the country. "Although Dr Dastur performed the surgery in 1961, he began his laboratory work four to five years earlier. In the West, it would not have taken so long as they have better resources. We have to include laboratory work as part of the medical curriculum so that we can evolve to an extent to become the leaders," he said.

The civic–run hospital conducts 700 heart surgeries every year in its two operation theatres. "The auspicious start was made by Dr Dastur and his team 50 years back," added Dr Nagle.

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