“Do I have a heart?”: I had a transplant

EVERY YEAR IN RUSSIA, HEART TRANSPLANTATION is expected by more than one and a half thousand people, but, for example, in 2018 only 287 people did it. Ludmila Pimenov not wait for a heart transplant in Russia and moved to India, where she and underwent surgery. She shared her story with us.             


I with ten years of ill hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – heart was very large and continues to increase in size. The walls of the heart thickened, the cavities became smaller and overgrown, so the blood could not flow in sufficient quantities. I was very tired, I had shortness of breath, physical activity was hard for me, my skin was pale, there were always bruises under my eyes.

I lived in a village in the Orenburg region, and the doctors there could not make a diagnosis. I had to go to the regional hospital in Orenburg – there the doctors determined what was wrong with me, and they also said that the disease was incurable. I moved to Moscow, followed up by local specialists. I underwent heart surgery – excision of the interventricular septum, which eased the course of the disease. Some time after the first operation, a second was needed, but I contracted bronchitis. Complications began, the second operation was impossible, which means that only transplantation remained. At first I was very surprised: “Is this even possible in Russia?” The doctor explained that people after transplantation live the same way as others – they just take medications and undergo examinations on time.

The gathering lasted three months and went hard. Ten days after the start, money was stolen from the card, but, fortunately, they managed to get it back

I went to the transplant center , they put me on a waiting list. But it had to wait too long – twenty months. I was called to the hospital twice. Once the doctor called and said: “Just don’t worry, take your alarming suitcase (the most necessary things that were always at the ready) and come.” A few minutes before I drove up, the doctor said that my heart didn’t fit because it was too big. The second time, the heart was not completely healthy, so it was not transplanted.

I then lost weight dramatically. My height is one hundred and sixty-three centimeters, and the standard weight is fifty-five kilograms. I weighed forty-four at that moment. Even in a normal situation, I seem thin – you can imagine how I looked when I was sick. Finding such a small donor turned out to be very difficult. Time was running out, the condition worsened, something had to be done. I began to look for other clinics in Russia and came across an article about Irkutsk girl who also was in need of a heart transplant and in the end went to India. I contacted her mother, she gave the contacts of the clinic. Doctors asked to send them the latest extracts from Russian specialists, test results.

On his birthday, a positive response came from India: a transplant is possible and will cost 95 thousand dollars. I wrote to charitable foundations, three of them – “Tradition”, “Mercy”, “Addresses of Mercy” – opened a collection for the operation and the purchase of air tickets. We created a group on the VKontakte network, people there also helped. The gathering lasted three months and went hard. Ten days after the start, money was stolen from the card, but, fortunately, they managed to get it back. Then the collection stopped. Journalists got involved, they wrote several texts about me, and in a day people transferred three million rubles. I started packing my things, making a visa, buying tickets. On November 27 , 2015 , I flew to India, and exactly four months later , on March 27 , 2016 , I underwent surgery.

“So small
and beats so fast”

We with mum arrived in India in Chennai. At the hospital, I was placed in a separate ward, examined, and blood was taken for tests. The doctors looked at what medications I was taking, said that the entire suitcase with pills should be put aside, and prescribed their own medications. Their drugs, I must admit, work on me much better. In this clinic, patients are well looked after : there will be a nurse with a girl around the clock, a nurse with a man . The staff monitors the patient’s health, writes everything down, and gives medications on time. You don’t need to hire a nurse, a relative doesn’t have to be around all the time to change clothes, wash a person, or take out a pot. Doctors care for each patient as if they were their own.

A few weeks later we moved to a guest house next to the hospital, but we still had to come to the clinic every week: the doctors monitored my condition. The guest house was home to other patients awaiting transplantation, almost all Russian-speaking. We lived as a big family: we went to the market, to shops, were happy when the operations were successful, supported each other. Some didn’t wait for the transplant, others, on the contrary, did, and now they are doing fine. There was a guy who had a heart transplanted, a man who had a lung transplanted. There was also a girl who needed both heart and lungs, but her condition worsened and she died. It was very hard.

It is very hot in India: from March to July the temperature goes off scale, 40-45 degrees Celsius. It’s hot even for the locals, what to say about the newcomers. The longer I waited, the worse it got. I sat at home all day in front of the air conditioner. I wore a mask and, if I went out for a walk, I only took a taxi. I was not allowed to travel on buses because of the threat of contracting an infection. Before the transplant, I developed new symptoms: my blood pressure dropped dramatically, I slept badly, chest pains appeared, and it became difficult to breathe.
Doctors never give guarantees how long the heart will work – it all depends
on the patient. But the forecast for most people is twenty five to thirty years

One morning, at half past nine, an interpreter called us and said that they were waiting for us at the hospital: a donor had been found and we needed to come. I took a shower, got dressed and took a taxi to the clinic. They took my blood for tests and began to prepare for the operation: they changed my clothes, treated me with disinfectants and took me to the operating room. The translator was stuck in a traffic jam, so when they took me to the operating room, I didn’t even realize that there would be a transplant right now. I was brought to the operating unit, I watched the doctors open the droppers, turn on the machines. Then one of the doctors came up and said: “You are going to sleep now.” I replied: “Okay, because I’m already tired of this lamp shining in my eyes.” And she fell asleep.

When I woke up, I heard someone talking. I realized that the operation was not over yet : they sewed me up, inserted some tubes. I thought, “Something went wrong.” The body did not obey me . I wanted to show that I was here and woke up, but from the anesthesia my muscles were numb – neither to cry, nor to move a finger. Then I passed out again. I felt myself being shifted from the table to the gurney. I came to my senses only when they brought me to the intensive care unit. Mom took my hand and said that it was cold. I am not able neither to squeeze her hand or poke foot or even open his eyes. A nurse came up and said, “Open your eyes.” I showed her with my finger – they say, help me.

I recovered from anesthesia at about seven in the evening. The doctor said the transplant lasted three hours and was completed successfully. I immediately began to touch my chest – is everything in place, is everything sewn on? Doctors asked how I felt, and I asked them in response: “Do I have a heart? I just it does not feel – it’s worth it, so small and so is beating fast. ” My own heart was so big that a heart hump formed: my ribcage and ribs began to deform.

The next morning, the doctors, mother, translator gathered. I asked why I woke up during the operation, and they replied that they had not given full anesthesia, otherwise my heart would have died without waiting for the transplant. Doctors never give guarantees how long the heart will work – it all depends on the patient, the characteristics of his body and lifestyle. But the prognosis for most people with a donor heart is twenty-five to thirty years.

Life after

We lived in India for another two and a half months, of which I spent about four weeks in the hospital. After discharge, I underwent a biopsy and revealed organ rejection (a process by which the recipient’s immune system attacks the transplanted organ or tissue. – Ed. ), They immediately began to treat it, and prescribed new doses of drugs. In Russia we are left only when the doctors were convinced that all is well.

Returning to Moscow, I immediately contacted the doctors from the clinic named after Academician V.I.Shumakov. I was taught to take care of myself, what to pay attention to. After the operation for six months, it was necessary to isolate pets (due to a possible infection), to avoid large crowds of people so as not to catch a cold. I remember that I was banned from eating grapefruit, ginger, drinking willow tea – they affect the effect of the drugs that I take. I drink two medicines every twelve hours: they suppress the immune system. If the immune system rises, the body will understand that there is a “stranger” in it, and will begin to reject the donor organ. In addition, I regularly take tests to monitor the concentration of drugs in the blood. If the concentration is higher than normal, it will hit the kidneys, and if it is lower, there will be rejection.

After my return, I went through a bunch of tests to find out if I got sick with anything. When I catch a cold, I immediately contact the transplant doctors who prescribe medications that are compatible with mine – I ca n’t go to the pharmacy and just buy a popular drug. I have an increased risk of developing skin cancer (there are studies showing that people after organ transplantation have an increased risk of developing a number of cancers. This may be due to drugs that suppress immunity. – Ed. ). I do not swim in rivers so as not to catch an infection. Once I was at sea, having previously consulted with a doctor: she said that you can swim in the sea, you just need to stock up on umbrellas and creams and choose a secluded place.

If the immune system rises, the body will understand that there is a “stranger” in it, and will begin to reject the donor organ

I know that my donor was a twenty-six year old guy from a neighboring Indian state who died in an accident. I was twenty-four years old at the time of transplantation. With relatives Man, I is not familiar with, but really wanted to would meet them – this is my second family. If my parents wish to see me, they will inform me. I thought about the death of my donor. This is a strange and difficult question: for his family – a great grief, but for me – life. I was in the church and did not understand how to light a candle: the person seemed to have died, but his organ was alive.

I returned to my native village and now I live there. I am registered in St. Petersburg, at the N.M. VA Almazov, and I send all the extracts and research results to a doctor in India. I began to walk more and faster, in general to live more actively; after the trip, I became interested in Indian dances and music, I fell in love with food with spices. Before, I made plans, made to-do lists, but now what mood I am, I do such things . If I’m not in the mood , I do n’t do anything. I do not work: due to the fact that there is practically no immunity, it is difficult. I study by correspondence at the College of Economics – I used to study at the Medical Academy in Orenburg, but due to my health condition I had to leave. But I met Indians from there, they invite me to their events. I would very much like to visit India again . She remained in my heart – I think this is my second homeland.

local_offerevent_note April 3, 2021

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