Bizman’s heart ‘pumped’ back to normalcy with pioneering cure
By Daniel Thimmayya - CHENNAI
07th December 2012 08:22 AM
When most people over 50 have heart disease for as long as Rajasekar did, they wouldn’t even consider getting a heart transplant done — which essentially means that they would be counting days till the end.
With cadaver transplants still being done on a minimilastic basis in Tamil Nadu, devices like the LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device), which started off as temporary heart pumps that sat in your chest and kept it working till a donor heart arrived, were not needed so far. However, the fact that the FDA approved LVADs for permanent use two years ago, meant that the devices could be used as a ‘cure’ instead of a makeshift relief.
Two weeks ago, doctors at Fortis Malar Hospital were called into the emergency room to tend to Rajasekar, whose heart was extremely weak and barely functioning. “He was in an absolute mess — his pressure was 60, his kidneys had shut down and his heart was barely functioning at 20%. It’s something of a miracle,” said Dr K R Balakrishnan, Director of Cardiac Sciences.
Given his history — coronary heart disease for the past seven years, heart blocks and a non-functioning left ventricle — and his age (58), surgeons knew that a transplant was off the table.
Priced at a little under Rs 70 lakh, the HeartMate II LVAD literally cost a fortune, but the family’s affluent financial standing pressed the doctors to import one quickly.
The surgery and two weeks that followed it were fraught with alarm for the cardiac team, “He could have crashed any time. Imagine we put in a device that does the work of one of your heart’s chambers and sits in your diaphragm — something like that needs to be accepted by your body,” explains Balakrishnan. Thankfully, for the businessman, his body responded like a charm, making him the first Indian to successfully be hooked on to an LVAD for life.
“Medical science has crossed unimaginable frontiers and today, I stand as living proof of that fact. Don’t lose hope,” said the happy man to people suffering from heart disease. While the entire cost of treatment (in the Rs 90 lakh range) is out of reach for many, the production cost may come down when newer versions hit the market, reasoned Dr Balakrishnan.
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