22December2014

Meet Liver Uncle Aka Grandpa

Saving someone’s life often brings with it the nickname ‘God’. In case of Dr AS Soin, Chief Liver Transplant Surgeon in Medanta Medicity, it is invariably so every time a patient, getting gift of life through transplant, comes to greet him . He loves the nick name ‘Liver Uncle’ given to Him by children savouring life due to him but feels really embarrassed when equated with G-word.

In fact, the surgeon, having the distinction of doing more than 1500 liver transplants so far, highest number when putting together all done in different hospital units, has transcended even his ‘Liver Uncle’ nickname. Call him Liver Grandpa if you want. Eleven of the scores of small children who got liver transplant at his hand are married now and four of them are even blessed with children. Looking at an invitation card, sent by Devyani, whom he transplanted when she was a small baby and who was wedded on this 8th of February, Dr Soin exudes: “It is a great feeling knowing that the children whom you pulled from the jaws of death are living and procreating too. I look forward to rest of them to getting hitched too. I wanted to join Devyany’s marriage bash but this is one ‘Grandpa’ who has no option to relax and regale, what with always someone else in line needing urgent help for life.”

Equally touching is his donning the mantle of Santa Claus not long ago. In fact he ‘manipulated’ the swap transplant of three children simultaneously, so that the children could have the feeling of getting gifts of life straight from God. On 25th December, he did the chain liver transplants, on Tejshree, Aneesh and Ansha, which started in the wee hours and ended, after marathon surgery of 20 hours, just at the dead of the night. They were on the verge of death because their livers had failed but now would live long to call him Liver Uncle and invite him when they marry.

He says: “I look forward to getting gifts from them.” Gifts he gets in droves from more than hundred children whom he transplanted in the preceding two years. They write him letters, they send paintings and ‘thank you’ cards. The little fingers of those children keep touching his heart through these gestures. One painting depicted the child in the lap of Liver Uncle. In one stroke he even gave Midas Touch to Medanta Medicity, Gurgaon, getting the distinction of being first in the world to consummate chain liver transplant. But he loves blessings from patients extricated from the jaws of death more than such rating as being global first. The credit of doing first successful liver transplant in India also belongs to Dr Soin.

After taking advanced training in liver transplant in Cambridge University, this AIIMS alumnus could have lived there happily because he had his own house there and wife also appointed as a doctor. He himself got faculty position in the University. “But I wanted to give back to my own country what I received here,” he said.

He came back to become faculty in AIIMS. In the decade starting 1980, India had not even one single facility for liver transplant. It was impossible to make it a reality in a government hospital, so he headed for Indraprasth Apollo. And, lo and behold! On November 6, 1998, the country had the first successful liver transplant.

But now he longed to have the atmosphere of academics too. He then joined Sir Ganga Ram hospital and did about 600 liver transplants with success rate of more than 92 per cent. After this landmark, this ‘restless’ liver crusader again started looking for greener pastures. He says: “The facility for liver transplant in Gangaram was not for more than 150 in a year. Then I tumbled upon Medanta Medicity, which has immense potential for creating new milestones.”

In the meantime, his wife supported him whole heartedly. He says: “But for her patience and emotional support, I would not have been able to establish such hallmarks. In the early years of establishing liver facility in India, when I was yet to create my team, I had to contend mostly with about 20 hours of work at a stretch. I would get stuck up in hospital for days. But my wife, though sometimes complained sweetly, kept supporting me as a true friend would do.”

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