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Anil Kumar says he had no idea his friend Sandeep Kumar would be fortunate enough to get a transplant so soon. He had been told that hearts are not so easy to find, and that patients on the waiting list for a heart transplant have to wait for more than a year.
So, when on a hot April afternoon, Anil, a resident of Haryana's Jind district, got a call from the doctors at Delhi's Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, he knew it was a matter of life and death. “The doctors told us that we needed to reach the hospital in about four hours. Sandeep's family doesn't have a car. I rushed to arrange a cab, some money, and we left shortly after. Luckily, it was a Sunday, so the roads were clear,” recalls Anil.
Sandeep, 34, had always been active, says Anil. He would work on his small plot of land, and would generally keep fit. However, something changed about two months ago, when the breathing trouble started. Sandeep was diagnosed with end-stage heart failure, and doctors at a district hospital told him he needed a heart transplant. The medicines, they said, wouldn't keep him alive for more than a year and a half.
A heart and hope came from an accidental death victim, Ashutosh, a 26-year-old MBA graduate who was doing his internship in Delhi. So, Sandeep's family decided to go in for the surgery, even though the costs—both of the transplant and the medicines—seemed beyond their means.
After the transplant was done, Sandeep insisted on meeting Ashutosh's family, who, too, wanted to see him once. “It was such an emotional moment for me.... Ashutosh's mother looked at me and said, 'May you live a 100 years,'” says Sandeep. The meeting, says Anil, had to be cut short because doctors felt that the “emotional stress” was not good for the patient's new heart. “I visited the young man's parents, and saw his room, his paintings. He was very creative,” says Anil. Ashutosh's parents told Anil that they were going to the United States to be with their daughter, but would one day come and meet Sandeep and spend some time with him. “They are, after all, leaving a piece of their heart behind,” says Anil.