Sudhir Choudhrie, one of the longest living heart transplant recipients, gives back to the community
On a cold January morning in 1999, Sudhir Choudhrie lay in the hospital waiting for a miracle. His heart of 50 years had all but gone out. Due to a genetic predisposition discovered when he was just eight years old, Choudhrie knew, without a transplant, he wouldn’t have much longer to live.
However, that morning in January brought hope for Choudhrie. A heart donor had been found in the Midwest United States and was being flown to New York’s Columbia University Medical Center in time to save Choudhrie’s life. One family’s heartbreak gave Choudhrie a second chance. Choudhrie has never forgotten that and is eternally grateful that he received the gift of life.
The Boy with a Heart Condition
Sudhir Choudhrie discovered his heart condition while growing up in India. When he had his first full physical at the age of eight, the doctor noticed something was wrong. Choudhrie’s heart was missing a beat, which was caused by a leaky valve. This moment defined Choudhrie’s health for the next 42 years.
Choudhrie suffered from various illnesses, most due to his heart condition. He was prone to infections and often felt lethargic because of his faulty heart. A childhood accident also left him partially blind. Despite these limitations, Choudhrie learned early on to care for those less fortunate than himself. This was a teaching instilled in him and his brother, Rajiv, by their paternal grandparents, who they lived with. This teaching has remained with Choudhrie ever since.
An Entrepreneur with a Faulty Heart
As a young adult in 1975, Choudhrie worked at the Magnum International Trading Company Ltd, helping to expand India’s export market. Later he worked at both Taj Hotels and Resorts and Adidas AG, expanding their corporate reach. In 1999, he became a director of Ebookers PLC. Unfortunately, during this time his heart was beginning to fail, and he passed out at least twice from his condition. He continued to persevere, even when his beloved brother, Rajiv, passed away from a similar condition in 1997, while awaiting a heart transplant. Choudhrie underwent his own heart operation to mend the leaky valve, only to have his heart stop on the operating table several times during surgery, requiring that electrical shocks be administered – it was 30 minutes before Choudhrie’s heart resumed beating.
A Transplant in the 11th Hour
The operation to repair the leaky valve wasn’t enough. Sudhir Choudhrie’s heart was still failing and he needed a heart transplant to survive – the situation looked grim. Heart transplants require donors that are a good match for the recipient and there were no hearts available. Just as Choudhrie’s heart began giving out, a donor was found and the famous cardiac surgeon, Dr. Mehmet Oz at Columbia University Medical Center, performed the operation with his team of 30 medical professionals.
After the Operation
Sudhir Choudhrie has defied all odds, living more than 20 years with his transplanted heart. He exercises, follows a healthy diet, and keeps a positive mental attitude. Heart transplant surgery is one of the most invasive procedures. Nowadays, heart transplant recipients have an 85 percent chance of living past one year. A full 50 percent live past ten years. Choudhrie wants people to know that a heart transplant isn’t a death sentence. Those unfortunate enough to need one can do much to lengthen their lives just as he has.
Sudhir Choudhrie believes much of the success of surviving a heart transplant is attitude and willingness to care for yourself after surgery. Following the operation, Sudhir Choudhrie promised himself that he would make his story known so donors and recipients would know there is life after organ transplants. He also promised himself that he would be a force of positive energy to do good where he could. He has lived up to those promises by writing a book about his experience and donating $2.5 million dollars to establish the Sudhir Choudhrie Professorship of Cardiology at the Columbia University Medical Center. The purpose of the donation was to promote vital research necessary to save lives and make advances in cardiac medicine. He also established the Choudhrie Family Foundation in 2010 for health, medical, and educational projects in the United States, United Kingdom, and throughout the world. With his positive attitude, Sudhir Choudhrie is set to live a very long life with the second chance he received. He wants people to know they too can get second chances through transplant surgery.