Bengaluru woman’s tale of 3 hearts

One organ donor can save up to eight lives. Organ donation not only gives a new lease of life to the recipient but is the only way to honour the donor’s organ. It saves a parent from the pain of losing a child, prevents a child from growing up without a parent and adds years of happiness to couples whose time together would otherwise have been cruelly cut short. It is the ultimate gift of love and a happy responsibility, reminisces Reena Raju, India’s first woman to get a second heart transplant

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From being a founder of an NGO (Light A Life- Reena Raju Foundation), to athlete, skydiver, cycler, parasailor and singer. She is a go getter and a fighter who is an inspiration for many.

In the year 2009, when Raju was 28-years-old, she had undergone her first heart transplant, due to DCM (dilated cardiomyopathy), a heart condition that leaves you with barely a portion of functional heart. In September 2017, she underwent a second heart transplant.

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Early this year, she was detected with allograft vasculopathy, which could be a result of immunosuppressant drugs. She was getting treated for the same and her condition got worse.  Then, was rushed to Chennai’s Frontier Lifeline Hospital and she was put on ECMO and supra alert for a donor heart.

“I was shifted to the hospital in Chennai, where my first heart transplant was done. Post this, I don’t remember much but when I got up, I was told that a second heart transplant has been done. All of this is nothing short of a miracle,” said an overwhelmed Raju.

Raju’s who is also the first in the country to get a second heart, is all set to rock with her new heart. “On September 22, I got my heart transplant done. It was a spiritual experience. If there has been anything that has sustained me till now, then it is my fitness, countless prayers and best wishes,” she added.

Post-transplant care requires a disciplined lifestyle. “Apart from frequent medical follow-ups, daily intake of medicines and care has to be taken.  It’s important to be physical and mentally fit. It has helped me survive an ECMO and second heart transplant,” said Raju.

Not everyone who undergoes a first heart transplant, needs a second one too. In fact, it is rare.“It is not necessary that anyone who undergoes the first heart transplant needs a second one two. In Reena’s case, especially we must understand that she has spent eight years of very productive life with donor heart. She is an inspiration for everyone around,” said Dr KM Cherian, CEO, chairman and cardiac surgeon, Frontier Lifeline Hospital.

“It all depends on the survival of the donor organ. The need for a second heart transplant is rare but surely, it cannot be denied as an option,” said Dr Sandeep Attawar, Director of Heart and Lung at Gleneagles Global Hospitals.

“Unfortunately heart transplant was not even offered as an option to patients suffering from end stage heart failure. It’s one of the main reasons I chose to step out and create awareness so many patients can benefit. A transplanted heart can last a day, week, months or years. Eight years is a good lease of transplanted heart in India. After which patients may need a re transplant. I am the first in the country for repeat transplant. This is the beginning of cardiac repeat transplants in India and God has put me in the forefront again,” said Raju.