A unique initiative to ensure smooth and speedy transfer of human organs from one hospital to another for transplant surgery
Shivani Chaturvedi | July 30, 2014 | Chennai
CHENNAI: Mumbai resident Hvovi Minocherchomji is a lucky young woman. On June 16, the 21-year-old’s mother, Amaity Aspy Minocherchomji, couldn’t stop thanking and blessing all the people who helped save her daughter’s life. She thanked cardiac surgeon Dr KR Balakrishnan and blessed the soul of the donor who saved her daughter’s life in his death. Above all, she had the Chennai police to thank for quickly transporting the harvested heart from government general hospital in Park Town to Fortis Malar in Adyar through their Green Corridor.
Chennai police takes the gratitude in its stride, for this is not the first time they have achieved the feat. The Tamil Nadu Organ Transplant Programme was started in 2008, and ever since the Green Corridor has played a part in 75 successful heart transplantations in major hospitals of Chennai.
The corridor was first used to transport a heart from Apollo Hospital, Teynampet, Chennai (South), to Frontier Lifeline Hospital in Mogappair, Chennai (West), in 11 minutes, as against 45 minutes it normally takes to cover the distance between these two hospitals. Since then, all it takes is a phone call to the deputy commissioner of police (traffic) to set up the corridor.
So what is a Green Corridor? Does it mean all roads are blocked for general commuters when an organ is transported? “No, not this way,” said a smiling DCP (traffic) S Sivanandan, who is the nodal officer for the Green Corridor scheme. “We do not block traffic completely. We just make the convoy (pilot car, ambulance and a police jeep) move non-stop from one end to the other. There is minimal disturbance to the rest of the traffic. We ensure that the harvested heart reaches the recipient hospital in the quickest time by taking the shortest route. We also make sure that minimum inconvenience is caused to other commuters,” he said, adding, had this scheme caused major inconvenience to commuters, people would have made a hue and cry about it.
For Sivanandan, who took charge as DCP (traffic) in early 2012, this cause takes priority. He monitors the corridor most of the time, ensuring safe and speedy passage for the organ from one hospital to another. Once a hospital places request with the traffic police for transportation of the organ, the DCP needs to take a go-ahead from his senior officers. Then his role starts. In most cases, the reaction time is barely one hour. “That one hour is very crucial for us,” said Sivanandan while showing a video-recording of one such organ transportation. The recording is done by police to monitor the process.
Once a demand comes, Sivanandan determines the route for transporting the organ. The police control room is informed and a police vehicle is provided to pilot the ambulance. Traffic police personnel are assigned to go in the vehicle along with the ambulance. They keep coordinating with other duty officers. “I ensure everything goes well, so my jeep trails the pilot car and ambulance,” he said.
Traffic police personnel are deployed at junctions and patrol vehicles are deployed on the route at every 200-300 metres. Traffic inspectors and other personnel on duty are sensitised about importance of the situation. A police team is deployed at both hospitals. “We remain in touch with both teams. So right from the time the heart is harvested till it reaches the recipient hospital, our team ensures that transportation is done as fast as possible,” Sivanandan said. When the convoy moves, we keep the doctors informed. The doctors (at the recipient hospital) ensure an elevator is kept exclusively available for the organ. Our officers keep updating the team of doctors about how long it will take for the organ to reach. Only when the organ reaches the hospital can we relax.”
Everything, the DCP said, has to be done in that one hour. “It is a challenge for us to keep travel time at a minimum, especially during peak hours when key arterial roads are usually chock-a-block. But as I understood from a doctor, sooner the heart transplant takes place higher the chances of success,” he added.
Chennai police commissioner
S George said, “The scheme is a proactive approach of the police. We are doing it on humanitarian grounds. By the end of the day we get satisfaction.”
Based on the success of the Chennai city traffic police’s Green Corridor scheme, a Malayalam film, Traffic, was made on a real-life story. Later, It was remade in Tamil as Chennaiyil Oru Naal (‘A day in Chennai’).
One such incident on June 16 made its way to national headlines. Minocherchomji, a BCom student from Mumbai, was suffering from swelling of the heart (dilated cardiomyopathy) and was admitted to Fortis Malar hospital in Adyar area of Chennai. The doctors ruled out all other cures and decided to go for a heart transplant. Soon, a donor match was found in the government general hospital located 12 km away.
With the coordination between surgeons of the two hospitals and the city traffic police, a medical team transported the heart from the government hospital to Fortis Malar in less than 14 minutes by creating a Green Corridor. As soon as the heart was brought, the transplant began and in a short time a new heart was beating for Minocherchomji.
A relentless Green Corridor team has since then assisted in transporting four more hearts.
Dhanraj, a Green Corridor coordinator at one of Chennai’s private hospitals, cast his mind back to December 16, 2012 when they succeeded in transporting a heart from a hospital in Vellore district (137 km from Chennai) to the state capital. They got the harvested organ to the transplant centre in one-and-a-half hours. Given the volume of traffic it would normally take two-and-a-half hours, or even three hours at times, to cover the distance. But the Green Corridor made it possible to help save a life.
“It was around 5 pm that day (December 15, 2012) when we learnt that we had to go to Vellore – a surgery was planned for heart transplant,” Dhanraj said. “We reached Vellore hospital around midnight, when the harvesting process started. We intimated this to Tamil Nadu police, who coordinated with us over phone. We had to leave for Chennai at 07.05 am the following day. I called DCP (traffic) S Sivanandan early in the morning and told him that we would cross the area. I had no other details – I didn’t know what time we would cross which area and which route we would take.
“The DCP told me he had taken care of these things and that his officers were already on the route. The moment we started from Vellore hospital a pilot car was deployed by the traffic police in front of our ambulance to clear traffic on the route; we just had to follow the car all the way to the hospital. All the traffic lights on our route were turned green... the entire system was so well organised.
“There was a change over near Kancheepuram-Vellore toll-gate – one police jeep left and another joined us. The roads were busy since Sunday masses were being held at churches near Chennai. But nothing hampered our ambulance’s movement. We reached the recipient hospital well in time and handed over the heart. The operation began on time and a life was saved.”
L Sathish, senior Green Corridor coordinator of Fortis Malar, said: “We have planned airlifting for transporting vital organs. If there is an urgent case out of Chennai and the patient is willing to bear the cost, we will be able to facilitate the transfer.”
Recently, Sathish said, he received a message from the government that a heart was available at a hospital in Trichy, but he had to say no to transporting the organ to Chennai as the distance between the two cities is 324 km. A human heart can only be preserved for up to 4 hours. Air ambulance, he said, is not available everywhere. “We get it from Hyderabad or Mumbai.”
Fortis Malar’s Dr Balakrishnan added, “When we get information about the availability of an organ we have to make arrangements in a very short time. We are looking at the possibility of having a dedicated helicopter. We are working out the logistics and have spoken to multiple agencies. We would get the facility of airlifting in the next couple of months.”
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