American after successful heart transplant in IndiaAugust 06, 2010

Chennai, India: Sixty-five-year-old US citizen Ronald Lemmer’s heart is expected to beat for India after his successful heart transplant operation in Chennai.

He is the first American and the oldest person to undergo a heart transplant in India.

“The US doctors said that my husband would not survive if operated in India. We checked with an Indian doctor who is our friend there. He assured us about the safety and we came to India,” Shelly Lemmer told reporters.

“In the US there is a long waiting list of recipients for heart transplant,” Lemmer said.

The couple came to India in May and Lemmer was admitted to Apollo Hospital.

“We were in discussion with the American couple since March this year. They came here in May and Lemmer was operated upon in July,” senior cardiothoracic surgeon Paul Ramesh said.

According to Ramesh, the Lemmer case was a bit complicated as he had a previous bypass surgery, an angioplasty with coronary stents and a pacemaker.

In the US, Lemmer was told that he had a mortality chance of 80 per cent.

The other challenge was that the transplant was an inter-racial one and the human leucocyte antigen (HLA) has to match.

“The HLA will be an exact match only between identical twins. Between siblings it would slightly differ. The difference will be high between two different races,” Ramesh added.

Fortunately for Lemmer, he was able to get the heart of a 36-year-old man who was declared brain dead after a road accident.

Necessary compatibility tests – height, weight, blood and others – were done and permission from the Transplant Coordination Committee was obtained to carry out the operation, Ramesh said.

Today Lemmer is walking around like a normal person and is planning to return to the US August 10.

“The success of a transplant operation is determined not only by increasing the longevity of the patient but also in improvement in the quality of life he leads post operation,” Ramesh said.

According to him, Lemmer’s quality of life will be better henceforth.

The surgeon said equally interesting are the cases of Kasturirangan, who underwent a heart transplant a year back, and Piyush, who is two and a half years post-transplant and leading normal life.

“For Kasturirangan it is a transgender transplant operation. He now has the heart of a woman,” Ramesh said.

“In the last 25 years we have done 38,000 heart operations in Apollo Hospital and 28,000 are coronary by-pass operations,” chief cardio vascular surgeon MR Girinath said.

According to him, 11,500 operations are beat heart surgeries.

“In India heart transplants are done only in cities like Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Cochin and Bangalore. In the last 15 years, only 100 heart transplants have been done in India of which 10 were done at Apollo Hospital in Chennai,” he said.

Girinath also said that organ transplant operations are subject to various uncertainties and challenges like availability of organ, logistics and coordination with different medical teams – the one that harvests the organ and the other that fixes it in the recipient.

According to Ramesh, heart transplant operations that are not complicated would cost anything between Rs. 800,000 to Rs. 1 million.


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Like much of the world, the Philippine economy has seen a downturn in the last few years, with falling tourism revenue, poor investment prospects and a lack of overseas employment opportunities. Officials in the country are turning to medical tourism as a potential solution to some of their economic woes, however, and are hoping it will bring in new business, technology and interest in their country.

Over the past few years the Department of Tourism and the Department of Health have been working together to promote the Philippines as the hotspot among Asia’s myriad of medical tourism destinations. Drawing in these guests can be big business for a failing economy, as the government has estimated that the average visitor to the country for medical tourism spends around $3,500 during his or her stay. In hard times, those kinds of numbers and that kind of spending is hard to come by.

That reason, among others, is the driving force behind the medical summit that the Department of Tourism will be holding this October to discuss the future of medical tourism in Southeast Asia. Officials are hoping it will bring new interest to the growing field in the country and situate the Filipino care facilities as some of the best quality and highest value in the world.

While medical tourism in the Philippines has seen a growth in recent years, it still has some major issues and concerns from foreign visitors to address. The country has seen sanctions for the large number of poor Filipinos who sell organs like kidneys to wealthy Americans who are willing to pay for them. Part of the initiative of the summit is to change the image of the country and assure future patients that concerns like these are being resolved and the country doesn’t offer third-world health care but instead state of the art medical facilities.

Currently, the Philippines is home to many specialty facilities offering care from dental work to organ transplants, having some of the oldest heart, lung and kidney transplant centers in the region. Officials also want to promote the post-surgical care they can offer with health spas and wellness facilities springing up as well.

Of course, Filipino officials aren’t ignoring what is possibly the biggest draw for foreign visitors: low cost health care. In many cases, operations abroad cost a fraction of what they would at home, allowing those without insurance to get the health care they need without incurring life long debt.

This post was contributed by Hannah Watson, who writes about the online nursing program.

For cheap surgery in the Philippines, contact Healthbase.

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