The surgery saved the lives of 18-month-old Nigerian baby Dike and 44-year-old Mumbai resident Priya Ahuja who were suffering from terminal liver failuressss

Until three months ago, oblivious of each other’s existence, 18-month-old Nigerian baby Dike and 44-year-old Mumbai resident Priya Ahuja were both struggling for their life because of terminal liver failure.

Their families had lost all hope of life-saving liver transplants as the only available liver donors for each case were of incompatible blood groups.

Little did they realise that their destinies would be so closely intertwined that they would have successful liver transplants by exchanging their donors and become linked forever.

These unique donor-swapping liver transplants were successfully performed recently by the liver transplant team at Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.

Announcing the achievement, the hospital Board of Management chairman Dr. B. K. Rao said: “A team of 35 doctors worked for 16 hours at four operating theatres to complete the two liver transplants. This swap operation comes as a blessing at the time of organ donor shortage.’’

The chief liver transplant surgeon at the hospital, Dr. A. S. Soin, said: “Dike and his mother Chinwe’s blood groups were B and A and those of Priya and her husband Haresh’s A and B respectively. While both donors’ blood did not match their own recipients, they were suitable for the other recipient. When we suggested a donor exchange which is also called paired donation, both families jumped at the opportunity.’’

“The biggest challenge in paired donation transplants is that both transplants must take place simultaneously, otherwise the donor for the second transplant (first recipient’s relatives) may refuse to undergo surgery once his own loved one has been transplanted,’’ added Dr. Soin.

“It proved very tough to maintain Dike in his state of advance liver failure with deep jaundice and bleeding for two months.

We often felt we may lose him before transplant. However, since there was no other donor option apart from the exchange, the doctors and the parents had to wait,’’ said Dr. Neelam Mohan, paediatric specialist in charge of the case at the hospital.

Priya’s case was complicated as well. In addition to advanced liver failure, she was also suffering from tuberculosis.

“Encouraged by this case now, we have instituted registration of patients with medically suitable family donors who do not match their own recipients due to inappropriate blood group or liver size. This opens up unique opportunities for match-making between donors and recipient from different families, thus helping save more lives with liver transplants,’’ said Dr. Sanjiv Saigal, who was in charge of Priya’s case at the hospital.

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