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A new heart: two stories of Georgians whose paths led to Belarus

Both had one of the most complex operations in modern medicine, a heart transplant, in Minsk.

This article originally appeared on Euroradio.fm

Don’t tell the children

George Talakhadze, an opera singer in training, sings even in hospital wards. His neighbours are ecstatic

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

“I didn’t know that I needed a transplant, my parents hid it from me. I thought it was just some operation, nothing special. I was lucky: a donor was found only 18 days after my arrival. I don’t know if everything would have gone so calmly, had I been aware of the situation.

I study at the Tbilisi Conservatory in classical singing and piano. I sing loudly. My heart doesn’t hurt. In the evenings I play in restaurants in six hour shifts. I dream to work in the opera house.

I’m going to marry – on my return from Minsk I’ll ask for my girlfriend’s hand. I already bought the ring.

I know that about 60 people from Georgia need heart transplants. Seven have already returned home from Belarus with a new heart. Among them a 14-year-old girl called Keti.

Children  should not be told that they have serious health problems and that someone else’s heart will be transplanted to them. This greatly traumatizes them. It’s a pity that Keti was told about it because she was very worried. Then Giorgi, another guy and I came to her, lifted up our T-shirts, showed our scars on our chests and said: ‘We are the same as you, but we run, ride bicycles, swim and live like ordinary people’ and it helped.”

A heart’s guarantee

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

“I had a girlfriend who worked in the Georgian parliament. She started to collect money for my operation. They have a strict dress code at parliament, and she went in a shirt with my portrait on it and the inscription: ‘He needs money’. She was chastised, but she still went about it. She managed to collect 65 thousand dollars; the state gave another 70 thousand.

I was against collecting money for the operation, but everyone said it was not embarrassing.

I was depressed, didn’t get out of bed for a month. Then came my priest, Father Seraphim. He talked to me, put a hundred dollars in my hand and promised to come and hear me confess the next day in preperation for surgery. Two hours later I got up, went to the bathroom, shaved and stopped thinking about what could happen to me.

When I arrived in Minsk, my heart was only working at seven per cent. A donor was found on the second day – he was a biker who crashed his motorcycle on his birthday.

He was 38 years old. They offered to show me photos, but I refused.

After the operation I returned home, looked at myself and it seemed as if it wasn’t me. My character has changed – friends say the same thing.

I help Georgians who need transplants. Each clinic has my phone number; doctors give it to everyone who needs a transplant. I help people send tests to Minsk and to communicate with doctors. I do it for free. How can I take money when people helped me so much?

I have a house in Georgia. I’m going to sell it to buy a home in Minsk.

I want to get a residence permit in Belarus and get the next transplant free of charge. I don’t know when it might be needed; the heart is guaranteed to work for up to 25 years.


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