Kochi: When Major Abdul Rahim, a soldier in the Afghan army, died in a bomb blast in Kabul on February 19, a tear was shed for him in far away Ernakulam district of Kerala.
The major had received a transplant of hands from Eloor native T G Joseph back in 2015, and the latter’s family had grown attached to the Afghan soldier.
Maj. Abdul Rahim, a bomb disposal expert, had lost his hands in an explosion in 2012. For three years thereafter, he struggled with his handicap. Then, when 54-year-old Joseph passed away in a road accident, it was decided to give his hands to the Afghan major.
The transplant procedure was successfully performed by a team of doctors led by Dr. Subrahmania Iyer at the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences in Kochi.
After the transplant and an intensive spell of physiotherapy, Abdul Rahim could regain a considerable part of his hands’ functions. He rejoined the army and returned to defuse bombs in his war-torn country.
In gratitude, Major Abdul Rahim would visit Kochi every year to meet Joseph’s family.
“We were shocked to hear of the demise of Major Abdul Rahim. Though Joseph left us, a part of him lived on. Abdul Rahim was a living memorial for us. Whenever he came to the Amrita institute for a consultation, we used to visit him,” Joseph’s wife was quoted as saying by Mathrubhoomi daily.
Major Abdul Rahim struck up a good friendship with his predecessor, in a way of speaking: the first person to have had a successful hand transplant at the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences. T R Manu became a close friend of the Afghan solider and kept regularly in touch.