5 SL Shanth Kumar - Chief Photojournalist - Times of India

Doctors have the Ability to change a Disability

Imagine having lost both your arms in an accident in your sophomore years, at the verge of adulthood. Add to it the predicaments of a proletariat family and it is the perfect recipe for a tragic saga. This is exactly what happened to the erstwhile 18year old Prema. In the middle of 2008, during his summer holidays, he decided to help his family by working at a power station in his village and make some extra money. During that stint, in an unfortunate accident on June 28, Prema ended up losing both his arms, at the shoulder level, as 11000 volts passed through his arms and upper body.

Luckily for Prema his life could be saved but both his arms had to be amputated at the shoulders. In India, the concept of limb replacement is still not widespread. Considering the cost involved, along with the risk to life, people who have lost a single limb usually makedo with their situation. Also, the post operative care is expensive and exhaustive. Another important factor is that there are not many organ donors. For a double-arm replacement the risks and other factors are just twice as much.

For Prema the above factors worked out and he also got Dr. Satbhai as his confidante. Dr. Satbhai is a Plastic Reconstruction Surgeon and he has been exposed to limb replacement for quite some time now. But doing a bilateral or double arms transplant was still a daunting task, as it had hitherto never been attempted in India. He decided to rise up to the occasion nevertheless.

After a wait of around 6 months Prema finally received a donor when a person in Gujarat died in an accident. Since after severing the arms from a donor`s body it cannot be kept for more than 6~8 hrs, the arms were flown by a chartered flight from Surat to Mumbai. A critical, high precision operation started at 12:45 pm on February 10. It lasted for a staggering 16 hours and ended just before 05:00 am on Feb 11. 1000 volts passed , many are affected like this and in our country donors is a big issue and waiting list period goes for years to get donors

Times of India Mumbai, March 2023