As Latha Sharma, gave them the nod to donate the organs of her husband, S Neelakanda Sharma, who was declared brain-dead, the Indian Navy pulled out a rare rescue op by lending a Dornier to ferry a heart from Thiruvananthapuram to Kochi. It was the first time in India that a defence aircraft was used as an air ambulance in a civilian medical emergency.
A 46-year-old Sharma, a lawyer, was declared brain-dead at Thiruvananthapuram’s Sree Chitra Tirunal (SCT) Institute of Medical Sciences. Mathew Achadan, an autorickshaw driver, was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (MCM). He had been waiting for a donor since doctors at Kochi’s Lissie Hospital had said heart transplantation was the only way to save his life. Their fates got twined in what turned out to be one of the most remarkable and unparalleled chapter in the history of human organ harvesting. Transferring the heart from Thiruvananthapuram to Kochi, even with a green corridor, in less than the four-hour deadline set by doctors was out of the question. While a chopper would take close to 90 minutes for the flight between the two cities, a Dornier could do it in just 35 minutes. By 6.10 pm, a group of doctors at SCT Institute had harvested Sharma’s heart after a five-hour operation that had its share of anxious moments.