Indian traffic police is helping in heart transplants. Yes, you read that right!

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India is synonymous with bad traffic. We all complain about it time and again. It isn’t unusual even to see ambulances getting stuck in thick traffic. But a few cities in India have shown how they can beat such odds to save lives.

The traffic police in cities like Bangalore, Gurgaon, Chennai and Hyderabad have worked to create what is termed a ‘Green Corridor’ whenever they have to facilitate transportation of a donor’s live heart for a heart transplant operation.

The Green Corridor is a special travel route sans red lights. To ensure that travel time is kept to the minimum, all traffic signals on the route are put on manual mode, and all lights are on green for the ambulance. In cases where the recipient is in another city, the green corridor enables the ambulance to reach the airport, from where it is airlifted.

Heart transplant technicalities

A heart transplant is the surgical transplanting of a donor’s heart into the recipient, usually a patient with end-stage heart failure or severe coronary artery disease. For the transplant, the heart comes from a recently deceased or brain dead donor, called the beating cadaver. Most often, it involves a donor who is declared brain dead but is on life support. The donor’s heart is injected with potassium chloride so that it stops beating before the heart is removed from the donor’s body. The heart is then packed in ice in a special box. This usually keeps the heart usable for four to six hours depending on preservation and starting condition.

Once the donor heart reaches the hospital where the recipient will be operated on, surgeons begin working on transplanting the donor’s heart, while the recipient is connected to a heart-lung bypass machine. This machine will continue to perform the blood circulation and supply oxygen until the transplant is complete and the transplanted heart takes over pumping and is stabilized.

Experts say that the earlier the transplant is completed, the higher the success rate. Hence, apart from the surgical complications, one critical element that decides the success of heart transplants is the time factor.

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Coordination between the hospitals and traffic police department

Creating a Green Corridor calls for tremendous precision and coordination. Once the traffic department receives a request, the department personnel are put on high alert. The team also chalks out the shortest route possible, and sometimes even leads the ambulance through. Traffic signals are put on manual mode, so that the ambulance is allowed to run signal-free. At times, personnel are deployed to clear the route and ensure that junctions are free of congestion and blocks. The traffic police makes sure that the ambulance has a freeway, enabling the ambulance to cover usually crowded and slow stretches in a few minutes.

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A few  real life instances

Green Corridors to facilitate transportation of organs for transplant is a common phenomenon in foreign countries, but this practice is yet to catch on in India in a big way. In spite of the numerous challenges unique to India, a few cities across the country have begun to create Green Corridors whenever the situation demands it. Here are some cities that are leading the change:

In February 2015, it took just 2 minutes and 45 seconds to bring a donor heart from Begumpet airport to a private hospital in Secunderabad. The heart had been flown in from Bangalore.

New Delhi
In January 2015, the Delhi and Gurgaon police joined forces to create a 32km Green Corridor from Sector 44 in Gurgaon to Okhla in south Delhi, enabling a convoy of ambulances to cover the distance in just 29 minutes.

In September 2014, the Bangalore city traffic police created a Green Corridor to enable a donor heart from a city hospital to reach Bangalore International Airport and be airlifted to Chennai. The distance of 42 kms from the hospital to the Bangalore airport was covered in 40 minutes as against the usual two hours or more.

In July 2014, when a matching donor heart was found in a government hospital 12 mms away, the traffic police came together to create a Green Corridor that helped the medical team to transport the heart in less than 14 minutes. The journey usually takes more than an hour. It was also Chennai that made headlines in 2008 for creating the first Green Corridor in the country.


A 2011 Malayalam film, ‘Traffic’ (starring Sreenivasan, Rahman, Kunchako Boban, Anoop Menon, Vineeth Sreenivasan, Sandhya and Roma), is based on the topic of the Green Corridor.  Owing to its critical and commercial success, ‘Traffic’ was remade in Tamil as ‘Chennaiyil Oru Naal’. It is inspired by a real-life story. 

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There may be many things that are not going right in our country at the moment. Yet, some changes like these will go a long way. For now, let’s make a silent promise that any time we see an ambulance, we will make way.

Don’t wait for the siren!