Amid COVID scare, Ahmedabad woman undergoes heart transplant

This is the second heart transplant in the country during COVID-19 pandemic

Representative image | Reuters Representative image | Reuters

In COVID-19 times when people are making every effort to avoid contracting the killer virus, the Jains in eastern part of Ahmedabad are fighting a different battle.

Thirty-five-year-old Shakshita Jain's heart was pumping at only about 10 to 15 per cent. The pumping had reduced over the years after excess loss of blood during her delivery 10 years ago. 

Besides the risk factor of a surgery during the COVID-19 pandemic, they also had to find out a donor as heart transplant was the only option before them. To add to the woes of the Jains was the financial crisis. 

Shakshita's husband Pankaj, who works at his father's small oil shop, had no choice but to seek support from his close family members. While he got help from them, he also received a good amount from the Chief Minister's Relief Fund. 

On July 10, a team of doctors headed by Dr Dhiren Shah of CIMS Hospital transplanted the heart of a 24-year-old youth from Surat, Harsh Patel. The youth, who had sustained severe injuries in a road accident, was declared brain dead after a couple of days of treatment. 

This, according to Dr. Shah, is the second heart transplant of the country during COVID-19 times. The first one happened in Kerala in May 2020. This also is the 10th heart transplant done by Dr Shah in Gujarat.

“We had no option but to go ahead with the operation as her heart was pumping at 10 to 15 per cent. She had already been admitted twice in three months. Also, we could not wait as we are not sure how many months will COVID-19 take to go away,” he told THE WEEK on Wednesday.

Dr Shah said that the risk factor had increased as the heart transplant patient had to be put on immunosuppressant and the chances of catching infection became high. 

As part of the extra precautions, not only Sakshita, but all the doctors and the para-medical staff – more than 25 – also underwent the COVID-19 test and only those who were found negative remained for her care. Level III PPE kits were put on. 

The para-medical staff, taking care of her, is lodged in a hotel and is in isolation. 

Pankaj told THE WEEK that they had to take the risk as otherwise her deteriorating pumping could have affected other organs as well.

Dr Shah said that the patient is doing well and is likely to be discharged from the hospital in a couple of days. 

Replying to a question, he said that in heart transplant, the data from world over suggests that a patient remains healthy for about 14 years after the transplant. 

According to him, the first year is crucial and mostly the heart rejections happen within one year. While the survival rate within one year of operation is 90 per cent, he also said that rejection can happen any time.