18 years on donor heart
>Recipient thankful to IJN foundation for sponsoring surgery
KAJANG: It has been 18 years since Albert Gunaratnam Samuel Thambiah, 68, underwent a heart transplant at the National Heart Institute (IJN) and he is very thankful to his heart donor – a 22-year-old athlete who died due to an accident in 1998.
Albert is also thankful to IJN foundation for sponsoring his surgery and its team of doctors and staff which till today monitors his health and provides the necessary medication. Every year, the foundation spends around RM4 million for needy patients.
Albert said without the donor and the IJN team he would not have seen his two daughters get married.
In 2015, IJN foundation provided some RM3.5 million in financial aid to help 124 heart patients undergo treatment and surgeries.
QL Resources Berhad is among the organisations that has helped IJN foundation for the last two years with RM75,000 and RM100,000 contributions, respectively.
Albert suffered a massive heart attack on Feb 17, 1996 and doctors told him that his only chance of survival would be a heart transplant.
“They gave me a drug to keep my heart pumping and they told me it can keep me going for about six months,” he told theSun when met at his house here yesterday.
Having lost weight from 82kg to 58kg, he underwent electric shock treatment at a hospital to correct his irregular heart beat.
The doctors advised him to go to India, in hopes of getting a heart transplant, but the Madras Medical Mission in Chennai told him his chances of getting a heart replacement was slim as his blood group was AB+, a rare group.
The doctor said only 5% of the world’s population had that blood group.
“I returned home and my doctors assured me that they would do their best,” he said.
He registered as a potential recipient with IJN in March 1998, and two weeks later he was told a donor heart was available.
“It was a Good Friday and at 3am I underwent the surgery. The procedure began at 3.15am, led by Tan Sri Yahya Awang and Datuk Dr Ahmad Salahuddin. After that, life was wonderful. I had a fast recovery, although I was a diabetic patient, my wounds healed without any complications. I felt great!”
His wife, Terry Nelson, said ever since the transplant, Albert had been very careful about his diet and exercised regularly.
“He is so much better. He can go for long walks and there are times when I cannot keep up with him,” she laughed.
Albert with his wife Terry and granddaughter Chloe Josanna at home.