Over the last five years there has been a rise in the number of patients from Pakistan going to India for medical treatment. Reports say most of them go for liver transplants with Hepatitis C being the most common cause for organ failure, followed by Hepatitis B, autoimmune liver diseases and congenital diseases in children.
Delhi’s Apollo Hospital gets some 50 patients from Pakistan every month as the cost of an organ transplant in India is half the price charged in Pakistan. Also there are very few centres there that undertake transplant procedures. One report said over 500 Pakistanis had received liver transplants in India thus far.
Pakistani patients also head to Tamil Nadu that leads India in organ transplants. Of the 40 procedures done in Tamil Nadu some 10% have been from Pakistan in the past three years.
Ties between patients and doctors don’t end once they go back home. They continue to communicate by phone and also send drugs that are unavailable or expensive to the patients.
Doctors say the journey for the Pakistani patients is not easy as the authorities usually issue visas only to a patient and a relative, but sometimes the patient may require more than one caregiver.
While patients head back to Pakistan with a new lease of life, some senior surgeons in India recall fond memories of their visits to the neighbouring country. Some years ago a team went to Lahore and in 10 days did over 15 procedures including open heart surgeries and heart valve replacements.