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An enduring success story

Ramya Kannan
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Sanjay Kandasamy with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.—Photo: Special Arrangement
Sanjay Kandasamy with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.—Photo: Special Arrangement

The only thing that distinguished Sanjay Kandasamy’s upbringing from that of other children of the same age, was that the little boy was never encouraged to play much. “A lot of children would ask me, why are you not playing. I’d just tell most of them that I don’t care to play. A few people, I’d tell that I could not play, because I’ve had a transplant. A liver transplant.”

At the age of 18 months, Sanjay, 16, underwent liver transplant at Apollo Hospitals, Delhi. Though the significance of this transplant was not immediately apparent to anyone but the team who operated on him, over two years down the line the doctors dared to talk about India’s first successful liver transplant ( Indian Paediatrics , 2001). Sanjay Kandasamy is India’s first successful Liver transplantee.

On November 15, 1998, Sanjay got a slice of his father’s liver, and lived on to tell the tale.

“I can tell you that there was no faith among the community in a liver transplant then. That’s how new it was,” Anupam Sibal, group medical director, and Senior Paediatric Gastroenterologist, Apollo Hospitals, says. “But we were very worried. The first is always tough. We were praying that he would recover.”

Sanjay, who hails from Kancheepuram, was born with a rare condition called Biliary Atresia, which is seen in 1 in 12,000 babies. This is a condition in which there is no connection between the liver and the intestine so the bile produced in the liver cannot be excreted and this damages the liver. These babies develop jaundice a few days after birth and the jaundice progressively increases.

Sanjay wants to be a cardiac surgeon

“Despite all his hardships as a child, Sanjay has grown up fine,” his mother Thilaga says. “He was first operated on, merely 67 days after birth. Now he is a strapping boy, he wants to be a cardiac surgeon. He’s taken up biology in the 11th standard.” The father, Kandasamy, is a businessman of limited means. They were able to afford the surgery then, primarily because the hospital waived much of the charges, Ms. Thilaga says. “We paid just above Rs. 5 lakh, while it probably cost about Rs. 15 lakh.”

Sanjay and his family recently made a trip to Delhi to meet UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. “It is wonderful to see how the young infant in dire need of a transplant is today a healthy young man who himself wants to become a doctor,” Ms. Gandhi had reportedly said.

Sanjay’s just got the latest test results from the annual check up. “The doctor told me that all is well, and to continue as usual. It just means I eat less oily food and not eat from the streets, and to take small doses of immunosuppressants twice a day. That’s okay. That, I can live with,” he says with a laugh.

Sanjay Kandasamy underwent India’s first successful liver transplant 15 years ago at Apollo Hospitals, Delhi

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