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DNA
21 May 2013
Chennai, India

Mohammed Zubair Ashmi’s dil is now Hindustani. The 40-year-old Pakistani arrived in Chennai over two months ago with a body close to giving up, hoping against hope that he would be able to put pieces of his life back together. He wasn’t disappointed.

Ashmi, who was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy — a condition in which the heart becomes so weak and enlarged that it begins to affect the supply of blood to lungs, liver and other organs — was saved, thanks to a prompt heart transplant at a Chennai hospital.

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Ashmi, who worked as religious studies teacher at a mosque in tehsil Kharian in Pakistan’s Gujrat district, had become a shadow of himself in just a few months. His heart’s pumping efficiency dropped from 60% to 10-15% and several parts of this body became swollen. He repeatedly found himself hospitalised with breathing difficulties.

Just as all hopes of making a full recovery on his own began to dim, doctors saw a heart transplant as the only way out. It was around the same time that some of the Pakistani doctors handling Ashmi’s case discussed it with Dr KR Balkrishnan, director of cardiac sciences, Fortis Malar Hospital in Chennai.

Ashmi soon found himself across the border.

“After his arrival, we performed a detailed medical examination. We found that he also suffered from renal failure, and had fluid in his lungs and abdomen. Besides, he tested positive for hepatitis C. These just made his condition very difficult to treat,” explains Dr Balakrishnan.

Despite being on continuous drug support, Ashmi’s cardiac function deteriorated. This left the doctors with no option but to either put him on the heart transplant wait list or to give him an artificial implant.

Fate smiled about two months after he was put on the heart transplant donees’ waiting list. The heart tissue of a 37-year-old road accident victim, who was declared brain dead at Fortis Malar Hospital, matched Ashmis’. On April 23, surgeons conducted the transplant.

Chennai sees the most number of heart transplants in the country, thanks to a highly-efficient organ sharing network system in place in Tamil Nadu. Maharashtra, on the other hand, has not seen a single heart transplant in the 18 years since hospitals were given a green signal.

Ashmi can hardly wait to get back to his old life. “I feel perfectly fine. I want to go back to my country and my job. I am ready to start all over again,” he says.

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