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Belarus doctors transplant hearts for 2 Georgian men

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Giorgi Talakhadze studies opera singing, sings in a restaurant in the evening and plans to get married soon. Giorgi Sarkisovi covers 14 km on his bicycle every day and loves swimming. The young men are the residents of the Georgian capital city of Tbilisi but they never knew each other before their life paths crossed in Minsk. Here, at the National Cardiology Center, both of them underwent one of the most complex surgeries in contemporary medicine - heart transplantation.

The donor organs came from two Belarusian motor bikers. Now, once every six months, Giorgis must come to Belarus for examination so that local doctors can check if their new hearts are pumping properly. As of now, with God's help, everything is fine .

Euroradio talks to Giorgi Talakhadze and Giorgi Sarkisovi about their life before and after the surgery.

Giorgi Talakhadze, 19 has lived with a new heart for two years

I had no idea I was to undergo heart transplantation. The parents wouldn't tell me. Until the very last moment I was thinking of it as some operation and nothing else. My parents did not want to tell me to prevent me from getting into depression... I was lucky: I came and 18 days later a donor was availabe. I don't know if everything would have gone smoothly and I would have agreed to this operation if i was made aware of the whole situation.

Nothing is hurting after the surgery. I feel as if I was born again... or changed? No. It is simply me…

Giorgi Talakhadze, a would-be opera singer, near the hospital.

I sing loud. The heart is not paining

My donor was a biker but I don't crave motorcycles. My hobby is car racing. Sometimes, I take part in races. That makes my dad very nervous. He says it is a very traumatic sport. But I like it.

I study classical singing and grand piano in the Tbilisi Conservatory. I sing loud. My heart is not paining. In the evenings, I also sing in a restaurant for six hours. My dream is to sing in an opera.

I am going to get married in one month. I will propose to my girlfriend upon my return from Minsk (proposition video here). I have already bought a ring.

Near 60 Georgians need to undergo heart transplantation at the moment. 7 Georgian nationals have returned home with a new heart from Belarus, including a 14-year-old Kati. Last year, Euroradio published a big story about the girl. Right after arrival in Tbilisi, Kati felt bad: the body was rejecting the new heart. But with time things gadually improved and became normal.

"Children should not be told that they have a huge problem, that they will have a new heart. It is a big trauma. Too bad Kati was told about it," says Giorgi Sarkisovi. — She was very depressed and became very touchy. She was lying in bed all the time and refused to walk. I and Giorgi and yet another guy had to come, pull up our T-shirt and show our body in scarves and say: "We are like you but we run, ride a bicycle, swim and live like ordinary people." That helped. Now she studies at home. Everything is fine."

 

Giorgi Sarkisovi, 34 has lived with a new heart for four years

I had a girlfriend. She worked at the Georgian parliament. It was she who began to collect money for surgery. When inside the parliament building, one has to stick to a dress code. But she would walk in a T-shirt with my photo and the slogan: "He needs money" on it. People said she should not break the dress code rules but she insisted she could because her boyfriend needed help. The MPs eventually wired 65 000 dollars, and the state added 70 000 dollars to help me cover the bill. There were fund-raising TV announcements about it every day.

I was against the money collection campaign. But everyone kept saying I should not feel embarassed. When I saw myself on TV, I was very angry. I did not want the whole Georgia to see me lying in bed with my problems.

 

I was very depressed, remained in bed all the time. Then my priest Father Seraphim came. As we talked he put a 100 dollar bill into my hand and promised to return on the next day to prepare me. In two hours, I got up, went to the bathroom, shaved and stopped thinking what would happen to me.

When I came to Minsk, my heart's performance was only 7%. This is too low. Back in Georgia, they had prepped me for the flight, I was connected to the life support equipment. The donor organ became available on the second day of my stay in Minsk.

My donor was a biker who crashed on his motorcycle on his birthday

He was 38. When they asked if I wanted to see photo I refused. I did not want to see it in my sleep for the whole of my life. Previously, I really liked motorcycles. One day, I got a cold and stopped riding. Perhaps, that's why I am still alive...

After surgery, I came back home and tried to look at myself. It seemed I was not myself. My traits changed, my friends are telling me. I don't know if this is because of the new heart or the medicines. But there is some truth about it.

Every Georgian clinic has my telephone number

I support Georgians who are in need of heart transplantation. Every clinic has my phone number. They give it to anyone who needs transplantation. I send test samples to Minsk, talk to the doctors. I do it free of charge. People once helped me. How can I charge money now?

I am allowed to come for examination once a year. But, for example, Giorgi does not speak Russian, so I accompany him. I take this opportunity to get examined too. The state helps me. In Minsk, tests for foreigners cost 3500 US dollars. Georgia pays for my stay, my tests in the clinic and my air fares. We have a paid healthcare system but for me everything is for free. I guess that's because I help those who need help and I do not charge money for that.

I want to get a Belarus residence permit and make the next transplantation free of charge

I have a house back in Georgia. I am planning to sell it and buy housing in Minsk. I really like it here. I don't know when the next transplantation will be. The heart warranty is for up to 25 years. Therefore, I want to get a residence permit here and make the next transplantation free of charge. I always try to look ahead. I will live in Georgia for one month and eat khinkali (traditional Georgian dumplings), then one month in Belarus and will eat draniki (traditional Belarusian potato pancakes).