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From a borrowed heart to a fitness icon, Mumbai man finds love for life

In 2014, the then 22-year-old fell in love with his dream girl in his gym. He proposed and she said yes. Even as he was dreaming of a blessed life with his one and only, Anwar’s life came crashing down after he was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a condition marked by weakened heart muscles. His heart’s pumping capacity dropped to only 5 per cent.

Anwar Khan (29), leaned back and brought the two dumbbells, each weighing 75kgs up to his chest, his pumping veins stuck out. He did 10 sets of 150kgs of chest presses while gazing at the incision mark on his body that ran down the centre of his chest to just above the navel in the mirror. It is his daily reminder that his heart belongs to someone else.

Seven years after a heart transplant, Anwar, a Salman Khan fan, is a fitness icon. He also got married this year.

“My ‘weak’ heart has never been happier,” said Anwar, his voice turning husky post surgery on World Heart Day.

In 2014, the then 22-year-old fell in love with his dream girl in his gym. He proposed and she said yes. Even as he was dreaming of a blessed life with his one and only, Anwar’s life came crashing down after he was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a condition marked by weakened heart muscles. His heart’s pumping capacity dropped to only 5 per cent.

“My whole body was swollen and soon, I fell down in the bathroom as my body became paralysed. The doctor said I needed a heart transplant, which was a rare surgery at the time,” Anwar said.

On August 3, 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 the heart of some other person inside me. I don’t feel anything. Unlike movies, one doesn’t see their donors in their dreams,” Anwar said.

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Although the surgery was successful under Dr Anvay Mulay, chief of cardiac surgery at Fortis, he had to remain in isolation in a rented flat as he was kept on an immunosuppressant. He turned feeble as his weight dropped to 38 kgs. Also, pressure from his girlfriend’s family to get hitched further added to his anxiety. “I had shrunk completely. I didn’t have the strength to go back to the gym. Her father gave me two years to get back in shape. It motivated me,” he said.

Within a few months, he returned to the gym with his feeble physique and kept a special trainer for himself. He would start working out with a mere 5kg weight which gradually increased to 25kgs and later upto 150kgs.

“People in the gym would cheer me on. With a lot of persuasion and effort, I regained his muscles,” he said. Meanwhile, he also completed his graduation in 2018 and started working. But tragedy struck him again when his girlfriend yielded to pressure brought on by her family and married another man.

“They kept telling me that I have a weak heart and would die soon. I was fit then but they did not listen. That hurt more than the painstaking recovery from the heart transplant,” he recalled.

As Covid-19 arrived in 2020, he had to leave his job to avoid contraction of the infection due to low immunity. As everything was going willy-nilly, he found that his true love, who would give his ‘weak heart’ more reasons to beat faster, had been hiding in the crowd for years.

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In 2021, he received a message from a stranger claiming to be his uncle’s daughter Rumana Khan. She even proposed to him in a message. “When I asked, she said as I was in a relationship earlier, she couldn’t open up about her feelings for me and waited. She would regularly seek updates on my health and pray for my recovery,” he said.

But Anwar never thought anyone would agree to spend her life with him. In shock and disbelief, Anwar could only respond, “My life has already become a joke, don’t play with it any more.”

The girl’s father approached his family members, who were hesitant in the beginning. “When I told them about my heart, his father responded by saying that it is destiny. The same could have happened even after marriage. I never thought that my in-laws would accept me,” he said.

On February 17, 2022, he got married to Rumana. Now, he calls himself the happiest man on the Earth.

Now, Anwar is hale and hearty and hits the gym daily at 7.30 am. He weighs 68 kgs and can do 5o sit ups at one go. He just has one medicine to take daily.

“The struggle doesn’t end with the heart transplant but is actually the beginning. You need family and love to survive through it,” said Anwar, who is currently assisting his father in his business.

Since 2015, over 180 such heart transplants have been conducted in Mumbai.

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