by Shalet Jimmy
published in The New Indian Express
September 30, 2013
photo courtesy : P K Jeevan Jose
His scalpel has handled more than 25,000 surgeries and he has won awards and accolades, including Padmabhushan for his contributions to his field. But Chief Cardiovascular surgeon of Apollo Hospital, Chennai, Dr Girinath, also one of the pioneers of heart transplants in the country, is unperturbed by the buzz created by these recognitions. However, he is happy with the way the country has woken up to heart transplants but concerned about the social problems arising from it.
“Recently, I did a heart transplant on a 25-year-old man from Kolkata. He is recuperating. But now his parents want to marry him off. They approached me for suggestions. What am I supposed to tell them? You can’t guarantee anything,” he says.
Dr Girinath was in Kochi to receive the Life-time Achievement Award instituted by the Heart Care Foundation. He points out that the technicalities involved in the surgery are simple but things can go awry in the post-operational period. “Lungs can get infected any time. The normal heart is not used to the diseased lungs and is directly exposed to the atmosphere. The anti-rejection medicines can help or encumber the progress of recovery. If you increase the anti-rejection medicines, it will automatically reduce the immunity of the patient. If you decrease it, you may be exposing the patients to risk. The patients have to be isolated and barrier nursing is required to avoid any infective complications. Strict monitoring of the patient is a prerequisite. Moreover, meticulous care has to be given while taking care of a heart transplant patient. No one can conveniently gloss over these facts and complications involved in it,” he points out.
To put it honestly, it is kind of replacing one disease with another. “But definitely it would give a qualitative life to the patient,” he said. Recollecting an incident, he said that India is on the process of surpassing many other countries in giving qualitative treatment. “I had a patient from Jordan. He was living with an artificial heart. But after two years, it started giving him nightmares. After browsing thorough the Net, he zeroed in on us. His heart was transplanted successfully and is now recuperating in the hospital,” he said. He lauded the doctors who are committed enough to undertake heart transplants. “It is time-consuming and needs single-minded devotion. Besides, heart transplants can be efficiently undertaken by senior surgeons who have an active unit. Dr. Jose Chacko Periyapuram deserves special mention in this regard,” he said.