An Affair of the Heart to Heal the Heart

A common treatment for heart attack is balloon angioplasty. A small, hollow and flexible tube with a balloon near its end, is placed in the heart arteries to lift partial blood blockage caused by fat or cholesterol.

Letter from New Delhi

A common treatment for heart attack is balloon angioplasty. A small, hollow and flexible tube with a balloon near its end, is placed in the heart arteries to lift partial blood blockage caused by fat or cholesterol. This procedure enlarges the narrow or obstructed arteries. A stent may be inserted at the time of ballooning to ensure the vessel remains open, and the balloon is then deflated and withdrawn.

Photo biography of Dr Harvinder Sahota authored by Sayantan Chakravarty in which the text effectively competes with visuals

Believe it or not, this procedure was invented by an Indian American surgeon, Dr. Harvinder ‘Harry’ Sahota, who lives in California, USA. And that’s not all. Dr. Sahota holds two dozen patents for other medical inventions and also a license to promote a drug-coated stent.

He has the distinction of performing the first Coronary Angioplasty in many hospitals around the world including India, Mexico, Russia, Ukraine and the United States. On 17 January 1990, Sahota performed the first coronary angioplasty in North India and nine more followed in the week that the team spent in Chandigarh.

All these interesting details and incidents are presented in a new biography: ‘Straight from the Heart: Famous Cardiologist Dr Harvinder Sahota’ by Sayantan Chakravarty (India Empire Publications) Rs 924. This well-produced, hardbound book on art paper is almost a photo album except when you start reading the text, you find it even more captivating than the photos. A seasoned journalist, Sayantan gets under the skin of the cardiologist and describes his life as if it is unfolding right now. The thoughts and feelings of the surgeon are captured sensitively.








Dr Harvinder Sahota and wife with Arnold Schwarzenegger

Another bonus in this book are the quotations from diverse sources that introduce every chapter. Here is an example: ‘No one is free who has not obtained the empire of himself,’ Pythagoras. The famous people quoted range from Voltaire to Bruce Lee.

The enduring theme in Dr Sahota’s life is his roots in Punjab, in Patiala, and in Sikhism. His loyalty for his alma mater, the medical college in Patiala, brings him back repeatedly. His love and devotion to his late mother Bibi Dhan Kaur prompted him to donate $1.5 million IN 2015 to set up a chair for Sikh studies at the University of California, Irvine. A devout Sikh, he daily visits the Sikh temple.

The turning point in his life from a competent surgeon to an outstanding pioneer in cardiology came when he became the first cardiologist to perform the balloon angioplasty in 1985. He invented “Sahota Perfusion Balloon” which allows blood to flow to the heart muscle during inflation and prevents chest pain during the operation. After getting the US FDA approval was the greatest moment in his life, he says. Now the balloon is used in angioplasty surgeries all over the world.

It has been a long, hard road from the small town of Garhdiwala near Hoshiarpur, to Los Angeles via England and Canada, from just a medical doctor to a top cardiologist who enhanced this discipline.

During his illustrious career, Dr. Sahota has met world celebrities ranging from heads of states to governors and, of course, top surgeons. His book records these meetings with photos and ends with his views on diverse topics such as healthcare in US, dowry, the Indian conundrum, democracy, discrimination and immigrants, Sikhs, global violence and Prime Minister Modi. Many of his views are debatable, and it’s presumptuous of him to set development goals for India’s future progress. Since he has no experience of governance in India, he would be well advised to concentrate on cardiology in which he excels.


Kul Bhushan worked as a newspaper Editor in Nairobi for over three decades and now lives in New Delhi


* Published in print edition on 16 March 2018

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