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207 Km in 30 Mins: Kerala IPS Explains What Goes Into Airlifting a Human Heart

207 Km in 30 Mins: Kerala IPS Explains What Goes Into Airlifting a Human Heart

"Before we started our mission we didn't know whose heart it was, or whom it was for. What mattered was making two lives worth it."

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In perhaps one of the rarest instances of green corridors, a heart from a brain dead patient in Thiruvananthapuram was airlifted to Kochi within less than an hour, helping save a critical patient through an emergency heart transplant.

The whole operation was coordinated by IPS officer Aishwarya Dongre, Assistant Commissioner of Shangumugham in Thiruvananthapuram city. 

Kickstarting the Process of Transporting a Heart

On Friday morning, Lali Gopinath, a 50-year-old woman from the city was declared brain dead at the Kerala Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS), following a massive cerebral haemorrhage. 

Shortly afterwards, her family informed doctors that she had willed to donate her organs. 

The medical team at KIMS informed surgeon Jose Chacko Periyapuram at Lissie Hospital, Kochi, about the availability of live organs. At that moment, a 48-year-old woman at Lissie Hospital was in urgent need of a heart transplant. After her blood group and other prerequisites matched with the donor (Gopinath), the process of transporting the heart was kickstarted in a war footing. 

The medical team and police officials who coordinated the airlift

207 km under 30 minutes

Following approval from state government authorities, Dongre and her team arranged a six-kilometre long green corridor from the KIMS hospital to the Thiruvananthapuram airport, a distance which was covered in under five minutes. 

“For the green corridor, we deployed police personnel along the entire route and stalled all other traffic movements. The route was cleared off by our officials around half an hour before the transit,” informs Dongre. 

At the airport, Dongre ensured all the security mandates and COVID-19 checkups were duly followed. Despite being non-functional at present due to the lockdown, the airport authority arranged for emergency staff upon Dongre’s orders. They helped facilitate the airlift and also accelerated the process with efficient management. 

A dedicated medical team and a group of police officials led by Dongre herself took the heart aboard a state-authorised helicopter. The chopper took off at around 3:10 PM and landed at the helipad of Grand Hyatt Hotel in Kochi in 30 minutes. A distance of 207 km from Thiruvananthapuram to Kochi was thus covered in such a record time.

IPS Aishwarya Dongre inside the chopper

Dongre had already coordinated with the Kochi police beforehand, who arranged for an ambulance at the hotel before the helicopter landed. The medical team reached Lissie hospital with the heart in the ambulance in another five minutes. The transplant surgery commenced immediately, and the patient was saved. 

“What mattered was making two lives worth it.”

“Before we started our mission, we didn’t know whose heart it was, or whom it was for. What mattered was making two lives worth it. For the one who had died, and for one who would get a new lease of life,” says Dongre. 

She adds, “Sometimes human nature is such that if we attach an identity to someone, several characteristics get attached to the mission. We didn’t want or need that. On joining public service, I knew that the service of any kind has to be rendered for the common citizen without attaching any identity to him/her. In fact, I got to know the details of the persons only 2 hours after completing the operation.”

Dongre’s laudable endeavour garnered appreciation from all quarters. Her team’s selfless efforts led to the success of the effort and saving a life at the nick of time. 

(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)

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