CHENNAI: He is like the lucky feline with nine lives. Suffering from a mysterious heart failure since 2005, Puducherry resident A Sekhar has been jolted back to life nine times during the last one year, thanks to a Cardiac Implantable Electronic Device (CIED) fit by JIPMER. However, with the prospect of a sudden death never far away, the 54-year-old man received a fresh lease of life recently after undergoing a heart transplant at Sri Ramachandra Medical Centre (SRMC).
The sixth such surgery performed at the hospital, the donor was an 18-year-old male victim of a road accident.
Sekhar’s ordeal began one day about nine years ago, when he became acutely breathless while climbing the staircase leading to his home. “I used to take two steps at a time,” recalled Sekhar, a mechanical engineer, at an interaction with the media at SRMC on Wednesday. Some of the members of the hospital’s cardiology team, including Dr T Periyasamy and Dr K Manokar, were present.
An angioplasty at JIPMER revealed no blockage, Sekhar said. Diagnosed with a heart with only 36 per cent pumping ability, he began to reduce his activities drastically and survived on medication for four years until he met Dr Manokar at a medical camp in Puducherry in 2009. “Of the several factors leading to heart failure, the most common are heart blockage, genetic causes and viral fever,” said Dr Manokar.
But when tests showed that Sekhar had hyperthyroidism, a transient phenomenon that could result in heart failure, the cardiologists at SRMC thought they had finally zeroed in on the cause. A year later, however, they were still a perplexed lot when their patient’s heart failed to recover even after being cured of the condition. It was a classic idiopathic case. “About 8-10 per cent of the cases fall in this ‘I don’t know’ category,” Dr Manokar pointed out.
The prognosis for Sekhar was grim as data showed 50 per cent mortality rate in one year for patients with class IV heart failure like him. “The risks faced by such patients are higher than those with any type of cancer,” the cardiologist said. “The threat of a sudden death from mechanical or electrical problems of the heart loom large,” he added.
Hence, even as Sekhar was fitted with a free-of-cost CIED to prevent death from any electrical imbalance, he was put on the transplant list. “A CIED patient faces risk of complications caused by infections,” Dr Periyasamy pointed out.
Finally, as Sekhar came in and out of ventilator, and several false starts in the search for a suitable heart for him, news came from a leading private hospital on November 26 that the family of a road accident victim — a teenager — was ready to donate the boy’s heart. The successful transplant has come as a new breath of life for him.