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A celebrity funds liver transplant and ongoing costs in the fledgling days of liver transplantation in India

Enrapturing victory, success and joy…his name “Nihaal” embodies all that he stands for. His journey is a miracle that truly enraptures our heart and soul, leaving even the hardest nonbelievers with a faith that says there stands a power far greater than you and I are.

Second year into their marriage, Nihaal’s parents were worried. They were hoping for a baby. The elders in the family like most ones in Indian families had started enquiring for the “good news”. A series of tests and visits to the gynecologist shattered their dreams. Nihaal’s mom, Navnita had severe tubal blocks in both tubes, surgical correction was tried but a spontaneous conception would be “impossible”, they were told. A natural pregnancy without assisted reproduction techniques would be a “miracle”.

We have all heard fairytales and fables about miracles. Do they really happen? Aren’t they just figments of imagination handed down generations to reinforce a belief in a higher force? Here were miracles, not one but one after another that were to unfold in their lives. The first was Nihaal’s natural conception.

Navnita’s happiness knew no bounds when she realized she was expecting her first baby, the ‘impossible” had happened. Nihaal came into this world bringing joy and ecstasy into their dejected hearts. A few weeks of blissful parenting and their joys were replaced by fears. Soon after birth Nihaal developed jaundice that refused to go away. Detailed evaluations in the 3rd month of his life revealed he had biliary atresia wherein the biliary system, a network of channels that drains bile produced in the liver to the gall bladder has blockages causing liver damage due to bile stasis.

Over the next few months he developed progressive liver failure and was practically in and out of hospital. They were referred for a liver transplant, without one he didn’t stand a chance. His parents were devastated. They had thanked their stars for his birth, wondered what past good deeds had manifest this miracle into their lives. Was their faith in the Divine being tested? They couldn’t afford a liver transplant, they couldn’t afford to lose Nihaal either. Nihaal was too precious to be lost, their hearts bled at their predicament.

Nihaal was too precious to this universe as well. Another miracle was about to unfold, a person unknown and unrelated to them was about to become his guardian angel. The transplant team had put in an appeal on national television seeking financial help. Herein, stepped in a person with a heart of gold, one who is revered by his fans for his cricketing skills, his wit and his down to earth persona. Navjot Singh Sidhu put in 18 lacs to cover for his surgery and the recurring lifetime cost of his medications without letting out a word for publicity. To give is great, to give silently is divine. The only bank that can never go bankrupt is the bank of selfless love.

The hospital chose not to charge for the transplant apart from the six lacs to be spent on the consumables. The remaining twelve would be put into a fixed deposit and the interest pay for the monthly immunosuppression medications. Does this bring us to the end of the story? All hurdles sorted, successful surgery and happily ever after? Man proposes, God disposes. There was another miracle waiting to happen, one that would jeopardize all their plans, that seemed more of a setback than a blessing.

All pretransplant assessments for Nihaal were complete. Navnita, his mother, being the same blood group as Nihaal was to be the liver donor. Her ultrasound abdomen done as part of assessment before surgery left her flabbergasted. She was in the 3rd month of another pregnancy, one that she was totally unaware of. She had been declared infertile at one point of time, and here she was with another pregnancy!

She wept her heart out and steeled herself. She had to save Nihaal, and she contemplated an abortion. She asked to confirm how soon after an abortion could she go in for the donor surgery. Today, she credits the life of both her children to our team. We put our foot down, no abortion. She would not be the donor. There was no guarantee Nihaal would survive the liver transplant, was she prepared to live with the loss of both her children if Nihaal didn’t make it?

As if the whole universe had conspired to bless them with a happy family, Nihaal had another guardian angel up his little sleeve. An aunt with Nihaal’s blood group showed great magnanimity and came forward to donate a part of her liver. After all these miracles, how could the miracle surgery that has revolutionized the course of this disease ever go wrong? All went well. Both Nihaal and his aunt recovered very well after their surgeries.

Today, more than a decade after Nihaal’s transplant, with his younger brother in tow, they constitute one  blissful family. They have been truly blessed beyond their fondest dreams. They live in gratitude for providence has brought them their highest good for their greatest joy.

Clinical perspective

Nihaal has had a miracle run in the clinical context as well. He had a smooth surgery and postoperative course. On follow up, he has done remarkably well with no late post transplant complications.

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Verified By Dr Smita Malhotra
Consultant Pediatric Gastroenterologist & Hepatologist, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital
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