Anwar Khan (29), leaned back and brought two dumbbells, each weighing 75 kg, up to his chest, his pumping veins jutting out. He did 10 sets of 150kg chest press, watching the incision mark on his body, which went down from the center of his chest to just above the navel in the mirror. He remembers everyday that his heart belongs to someone else.
Seven years after the heart transplant, Salman Khan fan Anwar is a fitness icon. He also married in the same year.
“My ‘weak’ heart has never been happy,” said Anwar, his voice hoarse after the surgery on World Heart Day.
In 2014, the then 22-year-old fell in love with his dream girl at his gym. He proposed and she said yes. Even as he was dreaming of a blessed life with his only one, Anwar’s life came crashing down when he was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a condition marked by weak heart muscles. His heart’s pumping capacity dropped to just 5 percent.
“My whole body was swollen and soon, I collapsed in the bathroom as my body was paralyzed. The doctor said I needed a heart transplant, which was a rare surgery at that time,” Anwar said.
On 3 August, he was transplanted with the heart of a 42-year-old brain-dead patient from Pune, making him Mumbai’s first heart transplant patient in 47 years.
“People often ask me how I feel with another person’s heart inside me. I can’t feel anything. Unlike in movies, one doesn’t see their donors in a dream,” Anwar said.
Although the surgery was successful under the leadership of Dr Anvay Muley, Head of Cardiac Surgery at Fortis, he had to live in isolation in a rented flat as he was put on an immunosuppressant. Due to the loss of 38 kg, he became weak. Also, the pressure of getting married by his girlfriend’s family adds to his anxiety. “I was completely shrunken. I didn’t have the strength to go back to the gym. His father gave me two years to get back in shape. It inspired me,” he said.
Within a few months, he returned to the gym with his weak physique and hired a special trainer for himself. He used to start working with just 5 kg weight which gradually increased to 25 kg and later up to 150 kg.
“People in the gym would make me happy. With a lot of persuasion and effort, I regained his muscles.” Meanwhile, he also completed his graduation in 2018 and started working. But tragedy struck him again when his girlfriend, under pressure from her family, married another man.
“They keep telling me that I have a weak heart and that I will die soon. I was fit then but he didn’t listen. It hurt more than the painstaking recovery from a heart transplant,” he recalled.
As COVID-19 arrived in 2020, she had to quit her job to avoid contracting the infection due to low immunity. As everything was going arbitrarily, he found that his true love, which would give more reason for his ‘weak heart’ to beat faster, had been hidden in the crowd for years.
In 2021, he received a message from a stranger claiming to be his uncle’s daughter Rumana Khan. He also proposed her in a message. “When I asked, she said, because I was in a relationship before, she couldn’t open up about her feelings for me and wait. She would regularly get updates about my health and my well being. Praying to be.”
But Anwar never thought that anyone would agree to spend his life with her. In shock and disbelief, Anwar could only reply, “My life has already become a joke, don’t play with it anymore.”
The girl’s father approached his family members, who were initially hesitant. “When I told him about my heart, his father replied saying it was destiny. The same thing could happen after marriage. I never thought my in-laws would accept me.”
He married Rumana on 17 February 2022. Now, he calls himself the happiest person on earth.
Now, Anwar is fit and healthy and hits the gym every morning at 7.30 am. He weighs 68 kg and can do 5o sit ups at a time. He has only one medicine to take daily.
“The struggle does not end with a heart transplant but is actually the beginning. You need family and love to survive through this,” said Anwar, who is currently assisting his father in his business.
More than 180 such heart transplants have been performed in Mumbai since 2015.