@Vikas Sharma | Sr Journalist
New Delhi: Now 21, Sanjay Kandasamy did not have an ordinary childhood. Though you couldn’t tell, at just 20 months of age, he had a part of his father’s liver transplanted into him in November 1998. In doing so, Sanjay and his doctors created history in the annals of Indian medicine as the country’s first successful liver transplant surgery. Remarkably, not only has Sanjay done exceedingly well, he is now training to be a doctor himself – a testament to the expertise of the treating team and the tenacity of Sanjay and the family.
On the 20th anniversary of the era-changing operation that changed the face of medical sciences in India, Indraprastha Apollo hospitals showcased the evolution that liver transplants have gone through over the last two decades as well as felicitate Sanjay Kandasamy and his family for the bravery shown since the surgery.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Preetha Reddy, Vice Chairperson, Apollo Hospitals Group said “Liver disease is a major cause for concern in the country with as many as 2 lakh people dying from it every year. While around 1800 liver transplants are done annually, as many as 20,000 people need a liver transplant at any given point. The fact is around 10 lakh people are diagnosed with liver disease every year, making it the 10th most common cause of death in India as per the World Health Organisation. While India has come a long way since the first operation, there is still a huge gap to be filled. We have endeavoured to create world class transplant centres with leading clinicians running the program. Going forward we will expand our services to hitherto unreached geographies and populations.”
Ace Indian cricketer, Gautam Gambhir, a long time proponent of organ donation was also present on the occasion. “Every three minutes a person gets added to the list who need a transplant. Today over 2 lakh Indians are on the list while less than 10% get a transplant. We have to work as a nation to increase our organ donation rate. I have pledged my organs in 2011 and encourage the youth to raise awareness on organ donation and become donors themselves. This needs to become a national movement.”
Ashok Bajpai, Managing Director, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, said, “As we mark this historic day, we would like to thank our patients and families who have entrusted us with their faith. Our transplant program is today a beacon of hope for thousands thanks to the expertise and commitment of our specialists and staff. We intend to dedicate the coming years to becoming the best transplant centre in the world.”
Marking the occasion, Apollo Hospitals’ Group Medical Director & Senior Pediatric Gastroenterologist, Dr. Anupam Sibal said, “Today marks a special day for Indian medical sciences. It was over 20 years ago that India finally entered the hallowed exclusive club of countries that carried out liver transplants. This pioneering work and the awe-inspiring attitude of patients like Sanjay has ensured that over the last 20 years the Apollo Institutes of Transplant has performed more than 3200 liver transplants in patients from over 50 countries of which 302 have been children. We endeavor to offer our expertise to patients from all over the world who seek liver transplant services.”
By performing 1200 solid organ transplants in 2013, the program is amongst the largest Solid organ transplant program in the world, a position which Apollo has held for 6 consecutive years now.
Sanjay Kandasamy said “I would like to thank the doctors at Apollo who gave me a new lease of live 20 years ago. I would not have made it this far without this help. My parents and family have always encouraged me to make the most of this second chance at life. Seeing the work that doctors do from such close quarters made me determined to become a doctor myself. I want to contribute to saving lives of our countrymen and also set an example that any challenge in life can be overcome.”
Sanjay was born with a rare condition called Biliary Atresia. This is a disease that affects one in 12,000 babies with the only lasting remedy being a liver transplant surgery. Highlighting the expertise developed at Apollo, Dr. Neerav Goel, Sr. Consultant, Liver Transplants said, “Over the past 20 years our expertise has greatly developed. Today we are doing ABO incompatible and combined liver-kidney transplants. We are also operating on babies as small as 4 kgs. We intend to further develop our program to help an even larger section of the population in the future.”
While there is still a lack of infrastructure for life saving organ donations and transplants, the numbers in the country are showing some improvement in the country. Out of 301 hospitals equipped to handle the process, 250 have registered with National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organization (NOTTO), showing that in order to conduct an organ transplant, there exists one fully equipped hospital for around 43 lakh people.