Nearly 25 years ago, Prathap C. Reddy, a cardiologist set up a hospital in Chennai after he lost a patient who could not afford to go to the United States for surgery. At Apollo Hospitals, things have come full circle since, with a 65-year old American undergoing a heart transplant here.

In the process, two records were also created. The patient was not only the first U.S. citizen to undergo a heart transplant in India, but he was also the oldest person to undergo a heart transplant in the country, Paul Ramesh, primary consultant cardiac surgeon who performed the surgery said.

The recipients heart function was about 28 per cent and in January, doctors back home in Minneapolis told him that he required a heart transplant within a year, failing which he would die, T. Sunder, consultant cardiac surgeon, Apollo Hospitals, explained.

However, the American recounted in a press conference on Thursday, it could have taken him a year and a half to get a heart back home. He had meanwhile, read of the facilities for heart transplant in India, checked with some friends and decided to make the trip to India to get a new heart.

On the night of July 21, the American got really lucky. A brain dead donor's 36-year old heart was available but there were no other takers. M.R. Girinath, chief cardio vascular surgeon, called up the State co-ordinator for the Cadaver Transplant Programme seeking a go-ahead to use the heart on the foreigner. Once the sanction came, the hospital performed the transplant, working eight hours to put an Indian heart into an American.