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Amid border tensions, Indian doctors aid Pakistani patients

Saturday January 12, 2013 06:15:02 PM, M.R. Narayan Swamy, IANS

New Delhi: When Pakistani raiders were beheading Indian soldiers, a group of Indian doctors were helping their Pakistani counterparts to do complex liver transplants in Lahore.

The doctors from Delhi's Apollo Hospital spent long hours in the surgery room of the Sheikh Zayed Hospital during a four-day trip that began Jan 6 - incidentally the day major trouble erupted on the Jammu and Kashmir border.

Unlike during the 2012 trip, this time the Indian doctors only oversaw the "right lobe adult-to-adult living donor liver transplantation" on one woman and two male Pakistani patients, conducted by their own doctors.

"It is a highly complex operation and involves removing liver mass from the donor," doctor Subash Gupta, who has led the Centre for Liver and Billiary Science at Apollo Hospital since 2001, told IANS.

"The Pakistani doctors were doing the operation, we were only helping them," he said.

Pakistan has one of the highest cases of liver diseases, and scores of Pakistanis come to India for treatment. Gupta said Delhi's Apollo Hospital has played host to over 400 such Pakistani patients in the last eight years.

Since many Pakistani patients are not able to travel to India for more reasons than one, Indian doctors at times get invited to Pakistan.

Anaesthetist K. Lalitha, one of the five doctors in the Indian team, said the three Pakistani patients they oversaw included a woman, whose liver donor was her son, and two men.

The Indian doctors spent about 10 hours on the first day Jan 6, finishing an hour after midnight.

The next two days also consumed long hours though the Pakistani surgeons spent far more time on the patients.

Both doctors said the Pakistanis they met were very warm.

"People were very nice (to us)," Gupta said. "Those we met, the doctors, the nurses, no one really wanted any war with India... They also said that the country was facing major (internal) trouble."

Lalitha recalled that in the hotel they stayed, the singer entertaining the guests was belting out popular Hindi film songs, including those of the legendary Kishore Kumar.

"Virtually all the requests to him (by Pakistanis) were for Hindi songs," she said. "You would forget that you were in Pakistan. It was like we were in some 'mehfil' (musical soiree) in Delhi."

Although her mother-in-law suffered major heart trouble just before the trip started, Lalitha kept her Lahore schedule because her absence would have caused problems. A veteran, she has been an anaesthetist since 1984.

The Indians returned home, via the Punjab land border, Jan 9 - a day after two Indian soldiers were killed and beheaded near the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistani troops.

The brutality has outraged India, and sharply escalated tensions on the LoC, which divides Kashmir between the two countries.

"We hardly read the papers there, and we did not know anything about the beheading," Lalitha told IANS. "It is all so sad."

Trouble or no trouble in Kashmir, Pakistani patients will keep coming to India, and Indian doctors will keep getting invited to Pakistan.

"I feel happy with what we have contributed," said Gupta. "Eventually they (Pakistani doctors) will get going. As for us, we did what we did for humanitarian reasons."

(M.R. Narayan Swamy can be contacted at





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