Kochi: Indian Navy raced against time and space as its Dornier aircraft ferried a live heart and a crack team of doctors, led by surgeon Jose Chacko Periyapuram, from Thiruvananthapuram to Kochi in 35 minutes, enabling the successful transplant on a middle-aged man at Lisie Hospital, Kochi, late on Friday.
Doctors said Joseph Achadan, 47, who received the heart, will be under observation for the next 72 hours. The heart started beating after the first phase of the surgery, which lasted 3 hours and 48 minutes.
Mr Achadan, 47, hails from Pariyaram near Chalakudy in Thrissur and was suffering from cardiomyopathy, or the failure of the heart muscle to contract.
The southern command of the Indian Navy used its surveillance aircraft Dornier as an air ambulance to accomplish the mission.
“We got a request from the office of the chief Minister through the district collector at 10.30 pm on Thursday,” said the Navy spokesman.
“The request was for a helicopter to carry the heart of a person, who was brain dead at Sri Chitra Tirunal Institute of Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST) in Thiruvananthapuram. Given that time was too critical a component, and a helicopter would take more than one hour to cover the distance, we decided on pressing into service a Dornier.” The Navy made minor changes to accommodate a medical team on board.
The aircraft, commanded by Commander S Gopinath and had on board observer-in-charge Lt Commander Titto Joseph, left the naval base at Willingdon Island at 1.30 pm on Friday with the team of four doctors, who carried a specially fabricated case to preserve the live heart, and reached Thiruvananthapuram in 35 minutes.
The surgery to extract heart began at SCTIMST at 3 pm, but the procedure got delayed by 2 hours as an angiogram had to be carried out. The procedure got over by 6 pm when the staff carried the donor heart from the institute. Both kidneys were also donated for a separate transplant case.
The team of doctors was airborne with the precious donor organ at 7 pm. The aircraft landed at the naval base at 7.30 pm.
The Kochi police ensured a smooth journey for the ambulance carrying the heart to Lisie Hospital, 12 km away, in 13 minutes. The surgery started at 7.45 pm, which lasted 7 hours.