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Emirati heart transplant recipients were lucky to get timely donor hearts

Indian transplant surgeon narrates behind the scenes preparations

  • Hamad Sultan and Mohammad Khamis with Dr Attawar Sandeep after their successful heart transplants.Image Credit: Organiser
  • Hamad Sultan Khamis Khalfan Al-Yahyaee, 18-year old UAE national from Abu Dhabi, and his younger brother MohamImage Credit: Organiser
Gulf News

Dubai: The young Emirati brothers who underwent cadaver heart transplants at an Indian hospital in March, were absolutely fortunate to have found near perfect matches at the right time and had the hearts transplanted soon as their own organs failed, said their transplant surgeon.

Dr Sandeep Attawar, the programme director, cardiac surgery and chairman of the heart, lung and artificial heart transplant programme at Gleneagles Hospital, India told Gulf News: “Normally it is unusual to find donors matching the age, body weight and blood type all within a span of few days and that too in this case of recipients on the international waiting list.”

Usually international recipients get preference only if there are no Indian recipients. “In this case, we were notified of the two hearts of O positive blood group by the Government Transplant Body. We have two full fledged heart and lung retrieval teams on 24/7 standby to take charter flights across the country as soon as we receive a brain death alert. In this case the elder brother got the heart of a 23-year-old deceased patient from Vishakhapatnam while the younger brother got the heart of a 17-year-old deceased patient from Madurai.”

The donors were roughly of the same body weight as the recipients. The transplant procedure is initiated after a government appointed brain death committee declared the donor brain death following international protocols. After that, a six-hour window is left open in case something changes only then is the alert sounded.

Hospitals who conduct transplant have only six hours once the heart is extirpated from the deceased. It is stopped using a special solution and has to beat once again within the next six hours or it can get denatured very quickly, explained Dr Attwar. Hamad’s transplant was carried out within 4 hours and 30 minutes while Mohammad’s transplant was done in under four hours.

The two patients, Hamad Sultan Khalfan Khamis Al Yahyee (18) and is brother Mohammad Khamis Al Yahee (13) belong to a family of seven siblings with a history of familial cardio myopathy or varying degrees of disease of the heart muscle. One elder sibling had passed away from it while Hamad was rushed with a liver shock and failing heart to the Chennai branch of Gleneagles Hospital in February 2017. The family had taken him to Cleveland Clinic in Ohio and waited for two weeks for a transplant but to no avail and now taken him to India in a critical condition.

Dr Attawar added: “The patient was so weak and emaciated that he could not even take oral nutrition. His condition had to be stabilised and he only underwent the transplant surgery in the first week of March. But his recovery was phenomenal after transplant and he was out of the Intensive Care Unit within a week and on post-operative care before discharge.”

The younger brother who had accompanied the patient had a sudden deterioration in his heart condition while at the hospital and it was established that he needed a transplant as well. “Luckily he too got a correct match and was operated within the same time.”

Both brothers who made an amazing recovery will require lifelong immunosuppressants but have had an amazing return to a rich quality of life. Hamad the older one who plans to pursue a degree in interior design in Abu Dhabi will now be able to focus on this while the younger brother looks forward to completing his school education. The transplant cost for each international patient that includes the cost of chartering jets to retrieve the donor heart and arrange for green corridors and the entire procedure is around $70,000 (Dh257,000 approximately)