Tejaswini (name changed), a 22-year-old girl from Solapur who was born without a uterus, has become India's first uterus transplant recipient.
The transplant surgery was performed at Galaxy Care Institute in Pune by a team of 12 doctors led by Dr. Shailesh Puntambekar. ''It went off very well. The donor and the recipient are doing fine,'' said Puntambekar as he stepped out of the operation theatre around 9.15 pm, after the surgery that took around nine hours.
Tejaswini received the uterus from Varsha, her 45-year-old mother. Around 80 per cent of the retrieval of the uterus was done through key hole surgery. So Varsha, the sole bread winner of her family, can go back home soon.
Clad in a yellow salwar, Tejaswini looked shy and timid when we met her last month. Beneath her tranquil demeanour, she has enormous strength, said Tejaswini. Now, she has to undergo two more surgeries—a C-section to deliver the baby, followed by another to remove the uterus so she can stop taking immunosuppressants.
Tejaswini, who is very fond of her nieces, wants to have only one child.
In an exclusive story carried in the April 30 issue of THE HEALTH, we had reported that Galaxy Care is poised to be the pioneer in uterus transplant in India.
Puntambekar is planning to transfer the embryo into the recipient's uterus after six months. If everything goes as per plan, India will have its first uterus transplant baby next year.
About 4 lakh women in India are born without a uterus. The uterus transplant is the only option left for them to have a biological child. It benefits young women who have undergone hysterectomy due to cancer or some other illness and those who don't have a functional uterus.
Sheetal Malhotra, a 26-year-old beautician from Baroda, could be the next transplant recipient in the country. She will undergo surgery at Galaxy Care. The donor is her mother.
Malhotra, who has been married for eight years, lost two babies earlier—one died due to an umbilical cord entanglement and the second one was a stillbirth. She had had two abortions, too. She had lost all hopes of having a baby as she developed Asherman's syndrome and stopped menstruating. But now she is looking forward to conceiving.
The transplant donors and recipients were admitted at Galaxy Care one week before the surgery. Uterus transplant typically costs Rs 7-8 lakhs. However, Galaxy Care is offering the first three transplant surgeries free of cost. The third surgery is scheduled for June.
Puntambekar has obtained a license from the Directorate of Health Services, Maharashtra to perform the transplant.
The first successful uterus transplant in the world was carried out by Mats Brannstrom, a Swedish doctor in 2014. The recipient had two episodes of immune rejection. However, she delivered a healthy baby.
Brannstrom, who had promised to come to Pune to assist Puntambekar and his team, had a change of mind later and didn't turn up. He alleged that the surgery is done ''with no preparations at all.''
A letter of understanding signed by Brannstrom, a copy of which is in THE WEEK's possession, states that Puntambekar and his two colleagues visited Brannstrom and his uterus transplantation team at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in January, 2017 "in order to get an update on the results of the uterine transplantation trial and in order to exchange knowledge" and that "the team of Sahlgrenska University Hospital will come to Galaxy Care Laparoscopy Institute in May 2017, to help at surgery for the first uterus transplantation cases planned for May 14-15, 2017."
What caused Brannstrom to have second thoughts on the matter and cancel his trip to Pune is mysterious.
Also read: Mother's womb, daughter's, too