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Doctors at Aster CMI Hospital gave a new lease of life to a 21-yr-old girl from Goa, Sujatha Chowgule, who was suffering from chronic liver disease since the age of 14.Sujatha underwent liver transplant at a cost of Rs3 lakh, while the actual cost was Rs16 lakh. This was made possible through Aster’s innovative Affordable Liver Transplant Initiative, under which children and young adults from families who are unable to afford medical expenses are supported for transplantats through corporate social responsibility and crowdfunding.

A team of doctors including Dr. Sonal Asthana, Lead Consultant – HPB & Liver Transplant Surgery;Dr. Rajiv Lochan J, Lead Consultant – HPB & Liver Transplant Surgery;Dr. Karthik Raichurkar, Consultant- HPB and Liver Transplant Surgery;Dr. Aravind Sheshadri, Consultant – Integrated Liver Care;Dr. Naphene N, Consultant – Liver Surgery; Dr. Mallikarjun Sakpal, Consultant, Hepatology & Liver Transplant; Dr. ApurvaPande, Consultant Hepatology; and Dr. V Arun, Lead Consultant, Anesthesia and Critical Care ensured  a successful transplantation of the mother’s liver to her daughter and gave her a new lease of life.

Sujatha’s condition worsened over the past one year and she experienced water filling up in her belly. She also suffered weight loss and bleeding, which left her looking emaciated. Moreover, the lockdown imposed due to COVID-19 made her helpless, leading to further worsening of her condition. Sujatha’s doctor in Goa, Dr. Filipe Alvarez, had suggested a liver transplant but the family couldn’t afford it due to financial problems. On the recommendation of Dr. Filipe, Sujatha met Dr.Sonal Asthana on his regular outreach clinic in Goa. He carefully evaluated her condition and suggested transplant through Aster CMI’s innovative affordable liver transplant initiative. The transplant was scheduled and Sujatha’s mother was found to be a match as her donor. Both Sujatha and her mother then travelled to Bangalore and underwent the transplant using a part of her mother’s liver. Both of them recovered well after which they returned to their hometown.

Speaking on the Hospital’s innovative affordable liver transplant program, Dr. Sonal Asthana, Lead Consultant – HPB & Liver Transplant Surgery, Aster CMI Hospital,said: “We have come across many patients like Sujatha who are unable to access lifesaving surgery due to lack of funds. This is where the Affordable Liver Transplant Initiative comes into picture. The Initiative is supported by several charities as well as by crowdfunding and has provided lifesaving transplants to 102 children and young adults at a cost less than Rs 5 lakh to the families. This Aster initiative is India’s largest such supported initiative. We look forward to working with the doctors to enable more patients like Sujatha to get the help they need at an affordable price. A tie-up between governments on subsidizing liver transplant would be welcome, as it would enable patients from economically weaker sections to access the best medical treatment in the country.”

Commenting on her liver condition, Dr. Jose Filipe Alvarez, Senior Consultant Gastroenterology, Victor Hospital, Goa, said: “Sujatha’s liver condition had been steadily deteriorating over the past one year. Covid-19 and the lockdowns further worsened her health. I immediately recommended a liver transplant. But the financial circumstances of Sujatha’s family were not conducive for her to go through the transplant. We then got in touch with Aster CMI which has the Affordable Liver Transplant Initiative and doctors there readily agreed to handle Sujatha’s case. Eventually, her transplant was made affordable. The timely and subsidized treatment by Aster CMI saved her life.”

Sujatha’s mother, Bharati Chowgule, who is a 47-yr-old donated the right side of her liver to her daughter, expressed her gratitude to the doctors and the affordable initiative, said: “We were helpless when we heard about the transplant and its cost. Luckily, we met Dr. Sonal during one of his visit to Goa and introduced to us about the Aster Hospital’s initiative. We are extremely thankful to Dr. Sonal and the other doctors at Aster Hospital who provided the lifesaving transplant to our child. It is an unexplainable moment for us to see our child living a normal life. All mothers want their children to live a healthy life and naturally, I decided that saving my daughter’s life was a top priority and went ahead by donating my Liver and the transplantation procedure.”

Aster’s Integrated Liver Care (ILC) team includes specialist doctors – Dr. Sonal Asthana, Dr. Rajiv Lochan J, Dr. Mallikarjun Sakpal and team, who have been adopting several methods to make liver care affordable and manageable for all. The team of expert doctors have devised ways to significantly reduce the cost of liver transplants by making use of crowd funding, corporate sponsorships from CSR budgets, cross-subsidies, matched funding and tie-ups with state governments which helps in creating a budget pool leading to overall reduction in the cost of the surgery. While, normally a liver transplant cost ranges from Rs 12 to Rs 30 lakh, the affordable liver transplant at Aster has gradually brought down the cost of a transplant and post-care management to less than Rs 5 lakh.