India’s first pediatric liver transplantee now a doctor | India News

NEW DELHI: On November 15, 1998, Sanjay Shakthy Kandaswamy, a one-and-a-half-year-old from Kanchipuram, became India’s first successful pediatric liver transplantee. Exactly 24 years on, Sanjay is now a doctor in Bengaluru.
“I always wanted to be in the field of medical science since childhood,” Dr Kandaswamy tells TOI.
He was born in 1997 with biliary atresia, a rare liver disorder that resulted in post-natal jaundice. This caused liver failure, leading to the need for a transplant. The transplant was conducted by Dr MR Rajashekar, Dr A V Soin and Dr Anupam Sibal at Apollo Hospitals, Delhi. Sanjay’s father was the donor.


How Shakthy turned into Sanjay in ‘new life’
The baby from Kanchipuram had been named Shakthy by his parents but after the surgery, the team of doctors gave him a new first name: ‘Sanjay’. In biliary atresia, which he was suffering from, there is no link between the liver and intestine. Bile accumulates in the liver and results in liver failure.
Sanjay says he was the only one to wear a mask to school. “Other children were naturally curious. I was in Class 6 when I understood what had happened to me. While growing up, I started searching for details about liver transplant,” he said.
Sanjay studied medicine and became a doctor in 2021. “I love babies and that is why I want to become a pediatrician. Had I not been a doctor, I would have pursued pharmacy or genetic engineering,” he says.
The first deceased donor liver transplant (DDLT) in India was conducted in 1995 and was unsuccessful. This was followed by a few other failed attempts till the first successful DDLT was conducted in 1998.
Apollo Hospitals founder and chairman Dr Prathap C Reddy says Sanjay’s transplant paved the way for further liver transplants in India. “Over the last 24 years, the Apollo Liver Transplant Program has performed more than 4,050 transplants in patients from more than 50 countries, of which 489 have been children,” he says.
Dr Anupam Sibal, group medical and senior pediatric gastroenterologist from Apollo, says much has changed in the field of liver transplantation since. “Age and size are no longer barriers and we now do liver transplant in babies as light as 3.5kg. We also perform combined liver and kidney transplants, transplants when the donor is ABO-incompatible and transplants in babies and children with co-existing medical and surgical conditions. Concerns about puberty and risks of infections have been addressed with children leading a normal life post-transplant with an excellent quality of life” he Sibal says.
Dr AV Soin, now chairman of liver transplant surgery department at Medanta, says Sanjay’s transplant was complex and took around 10 hours to complete. The three leading doctors for the surgery, Soin, Sibal and Rajashekar, had conducted transplants abroad, but this was their first such case in India. “I saw the baby (Sanjay) in his mother’s arm and he was dying. My thought was, ‘we can save his life’. That was the driving force for us,” Soin says.

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