Mumbai: 24-year-old gets a fresh lease of life after combined heart and lung transplant

Updated: Aug 25, 2019, 18:20 IST | Rupsa Chakraborty

Akshara had been suffering from ventricular septal defect since childhood and this defect, over the years, led to Eisenmenger's syndrome

Heart and bilateral Lung transplant patient Akshara Aher takes a selfie with Dr. Sandeep Attawar and Dr. Unmil Shah along with her mother.
Heart and bilateral Lung transplant patient Akshara Aher takes a selfie with Dr. Sandeep Attawar and Dr. Unmil Shah along with her mother.

A 24-year-old Mumbai girl who was suffering from a rare and complex congenital heart disease received a lease of new life after she underwent a combined heart and lung transplant. Akshara Aher, a resident of Panvel, was suffering from ventricular septal defect since childhood and this defect over the years led to Eisenmenger's syndrome. Although she was managed medically for a very long time, her condition worsened of late, and she had to be put on home-based oxygen therapy. The 24-year-old underwent a combined heart and lung transplant in June 2019 and is recovering well.

The burden of patients with inoperable adult congenital heart disease and secondary pulmonary hypertension in this country is overwhelming. These individuals have a condition called Eisenmenger's syndrome. Many of them continue to turn deeply blue over time and develop secondary complications like cerebral strokes, severe right heart failure, infective endocarditis and die painful deaths after suffering immeasurably.

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Dr. Sandeep Attawar, Director and Chair of the Heart & Lung Program, Gleneagles Global Hospitals said, "The individuals who have Eisenmenger's syndrome could have undergone corrective heart surgery in their infancy or childhood that would have prevented this fate. However, it is only of recent that these facilities have been more commonplace in this country. So, these individuals that missed the bus, now are condemned to a pathetic existence unless an option such as the replacement of these seriously damaged organs is considered or feasible."

He further added, "However, for the replacement of the seriously damaged organs, there has to be an increase in deceased organ donation." Dr. Sandeep also mentioned that there is an uptick in awareness of organ donation and a ray of hope for individuals with this advanced and medically untreatable heart disease.

Akshara patient
Akshara Aher with Dr. Sandeep Attawar

Dr. Attawar said, "The final solution for Eisenmenger's syndrome is a heart and double lung transplantation. Akshara is one such young girl who had a ventricular septal defect that wasn't operated upon in her childhood. Heart-lung transplantation is the simultaneous surgical replacement of the heart and lungs in patients having end-stage cardiac and pulmonary disease. It is a viable treatment option."

Patients who are chosen for the heart and lung transplantation are selected carefully after a series of coordinated and properly sequenced steps. As per the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation, the indications for heart and lung transplant are congenital heart disease with Eisenmenger syndrome followed by idiopathic primary pulmonary hypertension with terminal right heart failure and cystic fibrosis with severe right heart dysfunction.

Akshara's transplant lasted for about 6 to 7 hours. Post-surgery, she was rehabilitated and was subsequently discharged in mid-July. She has been regularly following up with the clinical team and is recuperating well. Aher's follow up lung biopsies and levels of immunosuppressive medications are being monitored closely and treated under close medical supervision.

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On getting a fresh lease of life, Akshara said, "I am thankful to Global Hospital transplant team who have helped me to pursue my dream as a pharmacist & follow her hobby to dance and mountain climbing in her second phase of life.

Dr. Vivek Talaulikar, Chief Executive Officer, Global Hospital said, "I would like to thank our team of doctors for the tremendous efforts that they have put in to give Akshara a new lease of life. Till date, Global Hospital Mumbai has successfully carried out three bilateral lung transplants, and one combined heart and bilateral lung transplant. Our program will offer a safe and caring atmosphere for all patients just like all our other organ transplant programs which have been running for decades across India."

He further said, "I would specially thank the donor family who has taken up a brave cause of donating the organs of their loved ones. Today as you see, organ donation has given a new life for this youngster. I would appeal to the communities via the media to come forward and pledge for organ donation."

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