Follow your heart

This 43-year-old heart recipient ran a half-marathon, for himself and for a cause

The day Rupayan Roy ran for his life was also the day he realised that it was possible to follow a dream. “Not everyone gets a second chance at life,” says the 43-year-old LIC agent from Kolkata, who received a heart just a year before, from a donor.

When life turned upside down

Roy had always been fit, playing cricket and football from school into his adult life. He also loved to travel and had a number of extra-career activities, being a person who loved the movies and literature. “Over time though, I began to feel physically stressed and fatigued, which I attributed to getting older. I started to feel a shortness of breath a couple of years ago. Gradually, I also started to feel low and slow,” he says.

He realised that there was something more to it when a relentless dry cough started and there were blood streaks. He says, “I consulted my general physician and was advised an echocardiography, which finally shed light on the mystery. I was a man with a dilated heart, had 20% LVEF (left ventricular ejection fraction) with an irreversible cardiac condition and needed an immediate cardiac transplant.”

Roy couldn’t imagine why this had happened to him. He wasn’t overweight and was not given to either binge-eating or drinking. “When I asked my doctors why this had happened, in spite of leading a disciplined, active life, sleeping and eating on time, they said it was an idiopathic condition: a cause that could not be explained.” His son was three at the time, and the family was distraught. “We went into a huddle. Through our tears, we breathed deep and resolved to fight destiny head on.”

The surgery

Dr Suresh Rao, Head of Department of Cardiac Anaesthesia and Cardiac Critical Care, Fortis Malar Hospital, Chennai, talks of how Roy’s heart failure was affecting his kidneys and lungs as well. Roy underwent a heart transplant surgery in mid-2016 at the hospital. His doctors, cardiac transplant surgeon, Dr K R Balakrishnan, Director, Cardiac Sciences and Dr Rao counselled him, giving him hope that he would be able to engage in active sport again.

To pay the support forward, Roy chose a marathon for the cause of martyrs. “It was the best way to make a noble beginning and also to prove my doctors right — that a heart transplant patient could indeed run a marathon in just about a year,” recalls Roy.

The second innings

About 6 months after the surgery, Roy saw a poster for a half-marathon organised by the BSF. He felt it was an opportunity, despite his limitations and high risk, to celebrate his new heart and to acknowledge the country’s men on the border. “The surgery followed by the marathon changed my attitude towards life,” he says.

His family, naturally apprehensive about running after a major surgery, did “give in to my resolve”. And so he began training. All transplant patients are required to walk routinely and that was the first step. He gradually built up to a 4km power-walk every day, and then went on to running, first slowly and then picking up the pace. He was advised by his doctors not to play any body-contact sports like football or cricket, the way he used to, though.

During the run, he took the precautions necessary, keeping himself hydrated, with his oximeter (to monitor the oxygen circulating in his blood) handy. The training, he says though, is more in the mind than in the body.

His doctors are proud of his achievement, while his family is now encouraging him to prep for other half-marathons and walkathons for a cause. Roy’s advice to other people who he calls transplantees: “Dream, take small steps, improve in time and target the impossible!” For someone who did 21k a little over a year of surgery, we’ll take his word for it.

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Printable version | May 30, 2020 3:32:24 PM |

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