The 2013 Tamil film Chennaiyil Oru Naal (A Day in Chennai) intertwines multiple stories around one particular incident inspired by an actual event that happened in Chennai. This multi-narrative thriller tells a complex story:
The day superstar Gautham Krishna (Prakash Raj) is set to release his new film, Traffic Constable Satyamoorthy (Cheran) is returning to duty, Dr. Robin (Prasanna) is celebrating his first wedding anniversary, and Karthik Vishwanathan (Sachin) - an aspiring television journalist - is about to interview Gautham Krishna. Everyone's day comes to a standstill when Karthik - travelling on a motorbike - is hit by a speeding car. He is rushed to the Chennai hospital and put on a ventilator where he remains in a coma. Meanwhile in Vellore, Gautham's ailing daughter's heart condition deteriorates rapidly, requiring an urgent heart transplant. The doctors in Chennai urge Karthik's parents to donate his heart before he dies. Knowing this is their son's death knell, Karthik's parents are hesitant to take him off the ventilator. After much persuasion by the doctors, Karthik's girlfriend (Parvathi Menon), and Gautham Krishna they agree. With Karthik's heart available for transplanting, all involved face a larger problem. Transporting the heart from Chennai to Vellore - a distance of 139 kilometers (186 miles) or about 2.5 hours - within a significantly shorter (and necessary) period of time will be an impossible task.
The film was a Tamil remake of the 2011 Malayalam film Traffic.
Both films were inspired by the events of 20 September 2008 when Dr. Ashokan and Dr. Pushpanjali - popular doctors in the Chennai area - lost their 15-year-old son Hithendran in a motor-bike accident. After confirming the brain death of their son, the doctors came to the bold decision of donating Hithendran's heart, kidney, corneas, liver and bone marrow. Doctors decided to give Hithendran's heart to a 9-year-old girl in Bengaluru who was suffering from a chronic heart ailment.
Because a heart can only be preserved on ice for four hours - and two hours is preferred to maximize transplant results - transporting the donor organ over this long distance as quickly as possible was extremely important. The A.P. Hithendran Memorial Trust explains:
Considering the volume of traffic in Chennai normally it would take about 45 minutes to cover the distance between Apollo Hospital, Teynampet and Life-Line Hospital, Mugappair. So, the request was sent by the team of doctors to the Police Commissioner of Chennai to help timely reach of the heart. In a swift move, the city Police Commissoner after ordering that other vehicles on the route make way and the traffic lights enroute showing green, took the heart to the recipient hospital in just 11 minutes. The car driver Mohan was appreciated by every one for the timely reach of destination. After the reaching of heart, Dr. Cherian team immediately handled the operation and now baby Abhirami is alive!
A similar incident happened on 17 June 2014 when traffic was stopped to allow doctors to transport a donor heart quickly along the 12 kilometer (7.5 miles) route from Rajiv Gandhi Government Hospital to the Fortis Malar Hospital through 12 traffic signals via Mount Road. This road is the most crowded road in Chennai - particularly during rush hour. Chennai traffic police coordinated the lights and 26 policemen stationed at different intersections enabled the ambulance carrying the heart to make the more than an hour long journey in only 14 minutes during peak traffic.
On 19 December 2014, another donor heart was quickly transported from Bengaluru to Chennai in under four hours. However, because the distance was far greater - 348 kilometers (216 miles) equating to more than 6 hours travel time via National Highway 4 - this time air travel was included in the transport plan. According NDTV:
The Bengaluru police had assigned 25 men to ensure that the ambulance carrying the heart got a signal-free ride from the hospital to the airport, a distance of two kilometres. From there, the heart was taken in an air ambulance to the Chennai airport, after which it was rushed to Fortis Hospital in Chennai, through a special route configured by the Chennai Traffic Police to ensure there were no delays.
On 3 January 2015, another patient received the gift of life when a donor heart was transported 24 kilometers (15 miles) in 20 minutes. According to The Hindu:
The vital organ was transported from M.S. Ramaiah Hospital in north Bengaluru to B.G.S. Global Hospital in the south of the city. The entire journey, which otherwise would have taken more than an hour, took about 20 minutes.
While the drama of transporting donor organs is fascinating, the real story is the growth in willingness of families to donate the organs of their deceased loved ones. In the last six years, the state of Tamil Nadu has become the recognized leader in organ donations in India. Find out more at donatelifeindia.org/the-network/tamil-nadu
The following video playlist features the trailers for Chennaiyil Oru Naal and Traffic as well as news coverage about the real stories of transporting donor organs. A Hindi remake, also titled Traffic, is scheduled to release in 2016.
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