Meeting Manjot and Chhavi: A very different story than imagined
June 11, 2022 | Contributed by Anjali Mathur
My first impression of Genesis Foundation was quite a morbid picture when I learned that they work for children’s heart treatment. It made me think of unwell children and suffering, but within my first week of internship, my whole mindset changed as I realized how wrong I’d been!
Working with the Foundation as an intern, for my university’s Development Activities Program, I had the opportunity to work with this heart care Foundation in India. And what’s even better is that I was allowed to visit the hospitals after the children’s heart treatment.
Meeting two-year-old Manjot from Punjab, on the second day of my internship was an amazing experience. Since he was the first child I had met after surgery, in my head, I was prepared to see an unhappy, uncomfortable child with distressed parents.
Instead, I walked in on a child sleeping peacefully, with his grateful parents beside him. They told me that when he was eight months old, he had a persistent cough, after which an X-ray revealed his heart defect called Atrial Septal Defect. This meant that there was a hole in the wall between the upper chambers of his heart. While seeking treatment doctors had referred the family to a hospital in Gurgaon. After a very successful surgery, the doctors cleared him to receive follow-ups in Punjab with medication for about three months.
Only after speaking to his parents, I realised the impact that this defect could have had on his life and the value of timely medical intervention in bringing normalcy to his life.
However, these medical complexities did not bother little Manjot, who happily played with the toys that we took for him. His parents told us that he has two older sisters and is always excited to play with them.
Next, I met a sweet little girl called Chhavi at a hospital in New Delhi. This time, I did not know what to expect.
I had just experienced the complete opposite of what I had assumed, but I did not know enough to think the same for every child I met.
When I met Chhavi and her family, they told us how their heart defect had been detected in a routine check-up for her and her younger sister. The family, including her parents and sister, her uncle and grandmother, came to Delhi for her surgery two weeks later.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the family had found help online after being unsatisfied with their other consultations, and searching for a heart care Foundation in India.
In Chhavi’s case, I met a family who was desperate for help but was also more than able to seek it through the proper channels. Once again, while everyone around the child spoke of serious heart disorders among children, Chhavi blissfully jumped around her bed and played with the Barbie puzzle we took for her.
This interaction helped me understand something more profound about the perception of the state of heart defects in children in India. While knowledge and conversation around heart defects are less with over 200,000 such cases in India every year, a happier picture of children smiling after surgery is also a part of this truth.