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From Bulgaria To India: A Remarkable Transplant Journey Of Hope And Unity

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Upon her arrival, she was rushed to the operating room immediately.


The survival prospects for little Diana (name changed), a one-and-a-half-year-old girl, appeared bleak as she was urgently flown from Bulgaria to MGM Healthcare in Chennai, following severe heart failure.

Suffering from dilated cardiomyopathy, she endured two cardiac arrests: the first during transit over Karachi airspace, and the second upon her arrival at MGM Healthcare. Both cardiac arrests necessitated resuscitation.

Upon her arrival, she was rushed to the operating room immediately. There, Diana was connected to a venoarterial (VA)-ECMO, a heart-supporting device, and quickly transferred to the ICU, her chest left open. She miraculously regained consciousness 48 hours later, as doctors charted the course ahead. Although they were contemplating an artificial pump, a heart from a two-year-old brain-dead boy in Mumbai gave hope. However, there was a catch: the donor’s heart had a different blood group.

However, defying the odds, doctors proceeded with the transplantation, citing the unique ability to perform ABO-incompatible heart transplants in infants and young children due to their underdeveloped immune systems and minimal risk of organ rejection.

Post-surgery, the child was sustained on ECMO support, aiding the new heart’s complete recovery. Then, on August 22, doctors announced the success of the incompatible paediatric heart transplant, surmounting the blood group barrier. Dr KR Balakrishnan, Director of the Institute of Heart and Lung Transplant and Mechanical Circulatory Support at MGM Healthcare, reflected, “This case showcases medicine’s true potential alongside determination and collaboration. Witnessing this child’s recovery reaffirms our commitment to medical excellence and second chances.” Dr. Suresh Rao KG, Co-Director added “This is a rare transplant as the recipient’s and the donor’s blood groups are different”.  

Relieved parents exhaled as Caroline (name changed), Diana’s mother, shared, “She’s thriving, smiling, dancing, and learning during this time.”

This poignant tale adds another chapter to the saga of organ donation’s life-saving impact, with Tamil Nadu leading the mission.