On June 19, 2014, around 5 am, Hvovi Minocherhomji’s family living in Mumbai, was told that their daughter has probably found a matching donor whose heart could lease a new life to Hvovi. But she wasn’t the only person undergoing a series of cross-match tests that day, as another patient’s compatibility matched the donor’s blood group.
Hvovi Minocherhomji born in the island city was diagnosed with irregular heartbeats called arrythymia when she was merely 14-years old in 2008. An active and regular participant in sports, next four years passed without much complications and restrictions for Hvovi. But as the fatigue and breathlessness increased, she was diagnosed with congenital cardiomyopathy, a disorder of the heart muscle in 2011. Though her disease spread by the day, the doctors told her that she would remain symptom free until she reached her forties at least.
But after suffering from a stroke in December 2012, a heart transplant was her only hope. Her heart condition declined to an extent that her heart functioned at only 25 per cent as against a healthy person’s heart functioning at 65-70 per cent.
In order to keep her heart beating, she was again implanted with an implantable cardioverterdefibrillator (ICD) in 2013. (An ICD is a small battery-powered electrical impulse generator implanted in those at risk of sudden cardiac death).
It was in 2014, when the Minocherhomji family first considered a heart transplant on the advice of Dr Brian Pinto of Holy Family Hospital. On the day the family was out celebrating Hvovi’s graduation, she collapsed and was rushed to the hospital which fortunately was only 2 minutes away. Despite no pulse, heartbeat and blood pressure, she managed to survive miraculously. Post this incident the doctors informed the family that Hvovi had only a couple of weeks to live as her heart was deteriorating rapidly.
A heart transplant was her only hope. Since no heart transplant facilities were available in Mumbai, the family flew to Chennai, one of the leading cities in organ transplantation process. The family registered Hvovi on the recipients list of the Tamil Nadu Government organ donation programme at Fortis Malar Hospital. After waiting for nearly a month a suitable match was found.
That is when the 5am call happened that raised hopes but also fear as Hvovi was one of the two potential recipients. But in the end it was 21-year old Hvovi who proved to be a better match.
As the distance between the donor’s and recipient’s hospital was 13 kilometres, a 45-minute long route, the protocol of ‘Green Corridor’ was implemented. All the signals were manually turned green by the Chennai traffic police as the ambulance passed and within 15 minutes the heart arrived at Hvovi’s hospital. The operation went on for 5 hours and by 10.30am Hvovi had a healthy beating heart.
The heart which gave a brand new life to Hvovi, was of a 23-year old young boy who was killed in a road accident. His mother not only donated her son’s heart, in the most tragic period of her life but also donated her brain-dead son’s liver, kidneys and eyes. Had it not been for the deceased family’s decision of donating organs, Hvovi would probably not be living a healthy life.
Hvovi’s Post-Transplant Journey
The first few hours and days were very crucial for Hvovi as in many cases an alien organ doesn’t accept the body at first. She was kept on life-long doses of immune-suppressants, so that her body doesn’t reject the heart. For the first six months she had to fly back and forth to Chennai for regular checkups along with being extremely cautious about the kind of environment she was exposed to.
For the first few months, I was confined to sterile environment, kept away from crowded places and was on a strict nutritious diet. Extreme precautions were taken for my body to accept the new heart, says Hvovi, who is presently working at overseas education firm.
The brave heart even visited United States six months post her transplant where she did everything a healthy girl of her age would have done which included a ride on the roller coaster. It has been more than three years since the successful transplant, the 24-year old is now pursuing Masters from Mumbai University. Following her organ transplant experience, Hvovi even registered for a one month Transplant Coordinators’ Training Programme at MOHAN Foundation, Chennai. She wants to continue to work towards organ donation.