Repeat heart transplant, a miracle, says Reena Raju

The athlete underwent a second heart transplant in September 2017. She said the experience has reinforced her faith prayers and she hopes to spread awareness about repeat transplants though the efforts of her NGO

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Reena Raju is a true inspiration. Her zeal for life continued even after she underwent a heart transplant in 2009. Not letting this life-changing moment derail her plans, she pursues athletics at national level, is an adventure sports enthusiast and the founder of NGO, Light A Life- Reena Raju Foundation.

Reena is equally positive about leading a fulfilled life after undergoing a second heart transplant in September this year. “I was detected with allograft vasculopathy early this year, which could be a result of immunosuppressant drugs. I was undergoing treatment, but I got very ill. I had to be rushed to Chennai’s Frontier Lifeline Hospital, put on ECMO and on a supra alert for a donor heart. Post this I don’t remember much. When I got up, I was told that a second heart transplant has been done. All of this is nothing short of a miracle,” she said.

Reena had undergone a heart transplant at 28, as she suffered from DCM (dilated cardiomyopathy), a heart condition that leaves you with barely a portion of functional heart. She had undergone the surgery at the same hospital in Chennai.

With a new heart beating inside her, Reena, who is India’s first woman to undergo a second successful heart transplant, is all set to rock. “On September 22, I got my second heart transplant done. It was a spiritual experience, to be honest. If there has been anything that has sustained me till now, it is my fitness and 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, 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 necessarily needs a second one too. In fact, it is uncommon. “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.

“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 Reena.