It was January 1999. Sudhir Choudhrie, prominent entrepreneur and philanthropist, was hospitalized at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. His heart was failing and without a transplant, he was not expected to live more than a few hours.
According to his physician, the renowned heart transplant surgeon, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Choudhrie’s heart only had “a few hundred beats left.” Dr. Oz and the Choudhrie family waited anxiously as the clock ran down.
Choudhrie was born to a life of privilege in Delhi, India, in 1948. His brother Rajiv was just two years older, and the two grew up feeling more like twins. When their father was killed in a car accident, when Sudhir was only four, the two boys and their mother went to live with their paternal grandparents.
Sudhir was only nine years old when he was diagnosed with a heart defect. At that young age, he thought little of it and tried not to let it get in the way of his life, although his health was fragile throughout most of his childhood years.
He graduated from college in three years instead of the usual four and earned a degree in economics from the University of Delhi. He built an import/export business with Rajiv, the Magnum International Trading Company.
They worked with Adidas to bring the brand to India, which resulted in the creation of a branch called Adidas Indian Trading Company that grew into 180 stores across the country by 1995.
Meanwhile, Choudhrie married his soul mate, Anita, in 1976. They became parents to two boys: Bhanu, born in 1978, and Dhairya, born in 1982. Even as his business ventures prospered, Choudhrie continued to suffer medical problems. For example, in 1988, he lost part of his vision.
As a child, he had learned he was allergic to seafood, but it wasn’t until he was an adult that he learned he was allergic to iodine. It was the late 1980s, and he almost died from an anaphylactic reaction to the contrast being used for a cardiac angiogram.
Sudhir Choudhrie’s most difficult heart problem was the heartbreak he felt-and continues to feel to this day-when his beloved brother died in 1997.
Rajiv passed away while he was waiting for a heart for his own transplant, just two years after the loss of his brother, Sudhir found himself in the same position, his heart was failing and he was in desperate need of a transplant.
When they discovered a heart had been found for Sudhir, Anita and Bhanu were by his side-as were his mother, Amrit, and other family members. Dhairya was in school in India.
Bhanu recalls talking about death with his father, who was giving him instructions about what needed to be done if he did not make it out of surgery, while they waited for the heart to arrive.
Bhanu remembers the conversation as being the most difficult one he ever had with his father. His relief that he did not have to follow his father’s instructions cannot be adequately expressed.
Twelve hours after it began, the surgery was over, and Sudhir was back in a hospital room where his family could visit him. Recovery was not easy. It required some changes to health habits, such as an improved diet and regular exercise.
Like all transplant patients, he has to take numerous pills every day to prevent his body from rejecting the heart and to prevent infection.
About one month after the operation, Sudhir was discharged from the hospital but had to stay in New York City for follow-up treatment. Eventually, Sudhir and Anita relocated to the United Kingdom.
Although both had lived rich, full lives prior to the heart transplant, life seemed to get only better after the life-altering operation.
Sudhir Choudhrie’s Life After His Heart Transplant
Sudhir says that to make a full recovery, he had to find a purpose for his life, follow “any untapped passion,” and learn what he really wanted to do.
For him, one of the main things he became passionate about was becoming involved with the Liberal Democrat Party in Britain. In 2015, he was appointed the party’s advisor on India.
Although he grew up wealthy, Sudhir says his grandparents taught him, “if you, yourself, are fortunate, then you should do your bit for people who are not.”
He took that advice seriously, and even though he was a philanthropist prior to the heart transplant, he has now become more involved in charities and helping others.
Just a few examples of what Sudhir and the Choudhrie Family Foundation have done, just for the Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), include:
- Establishment of the Sudhir Choudhrie Professorship of Cardiology in Medicine. This Professorship is to support critical clinical research programs.
- Establishment of the Amrit Choudhrie Suite for Advanced Cardiac Care at CUMC, named for Sudhir’s mother.
- The Choudhrie Family Foundation Student Lounge, which opened in 2016 on the CUMC campus.
- Sudhir and both his sons are on a CUMC advisory board with the intent of maintaining Columbia as an international center of excellence.
Sudhir Choudhrie has also continued his other entrepreneurial endeavors, which are too many to list but include establishing Adidas and Taj Hotels in India . He is involved in ventures in health, education, travel, and hotels.
He saves businesses and puts them back on the road to success. This helps keep people in their jobs and companies stay strong and help the economy.
In 2013, Theresa May, then the Home Secretary for the United Kingdom, awarded him the Asian Business Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 2016, Sudhir Choudhrie’s book, From My Heart: A Tale of Life, Love and Destiny, was published. He tells his story about his life growing up in India, his relationship with his brother, his marriage, his children, and yes, his heart transplant.
He hopes others can learn from him how there is life after transplant. He also is on a mission to encourage everyone to become organ donors.
As one biographer stated, “Sudhir Choudhrie is a successful entrepreneur who has played a role in diplomacy, international commerce, philanthropy, and politics.
He established a reputation for boosting the growth of the companies he invests in and in being able to create cross-border investments and strategic partnerships with those he works with.”
These are impressive achievements, made even more impressive when it is remembered that the first heart transplant operation occurred a little more than 50 years ago in 1967.
The landmark surgical procedure was considered a success, but the patient lived for only 18 days. Now 85 percent of heart transplant patients live for more than one year, and 50 percent live for more than 10 years.
Sudhir Choudhrie has now lived more than 20 years following his transplant surgery, making him one of the longest-surviving heart transplant recipients.