Some Scars are Beautiful
January 23, 2023 | Contributed by Preeti Kumar
In 3 days, we will be celebrating our 75th Republic Day. 75 years since we adopted the Constitution of India where we pledged to provide equality of opportunity to all citizens of the country.
75 years later this remains a dream for many girls in our country where they continue to face challenges in equal access to opportunities in many areas – education, nutrition and access to health care facilities.
Being born a girl should not take away the right to access a lifesaving
75 years later, in this same great nation many little girls born with a congenital heart defect are deprived a chance at life only because they were born a girl. Shocking right? But this continues to be the reality in many parts of the country. Working as a Heart Care Foundation in India, where we interact with many families it is not uncommon to find parents fearful and reluctant to get the girl child timely treatment for the heart defect they were born with.
Heart disease in children is one of the leading congenital defects and affects boys and girls equally. Yet, through our experience of interacting with the families over the years, we have learnt that many times there continues to remain a hesitation in providing girls the treatment they need. The reasons are many, mostly stemming from a lack of awareness and deep-rooted socio-cultural biases.
This brave mother fought tooth and nail to give her daughter a chance at life
Many parents fear that getting their daughter the treatment will also mean declaring about the condition she is born with to people outside the family. And this will adversely impact her chances to marry in the future. In many parts of India marriage continues to remain the end goal for many girls. The situation is changing but we have many years to go before that changes for good. Even though, heart disease in children is one of the most common birth defects, many people are still not aware about it and about the fact that timely treatment can enable the child to live well into adulthood. Little do the parents realise that by getting her the right treatment at the right time, they are giving her heart a chance to heal, and in good time a chance to choose her life partner for whom her heart will always beat for.
Parents also fear that the treatment for the congenital heart defect will impact her ability to bear a child. However, with improvements in medical treatment and interventions most women born with a congenital heart defect can safely give birth to a child with the right guidance and support of a good medical team. Being born who a heart defect does not take away her chance of having a child of her own.
Many families fear that their daughter will live with a scar on her heart. That visually that will become a hindrance in her family life. Let that scare be her sign of courage, of determination , of love that shows that she had a family that did not give up on her and that she was given a chance to live her dreams.
As a Heart Care Foundation in India, we do spend some time in counselling many families where we face this obstacle. At the same time, we have also met some brave mothers and fathers from the remote Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and other states who have moved heaven and earth to give their daughter a fighting chance to live. Recently we met this beautiful mother and daughter from UP, where the mother told us that back in her village she would not even climb alone up the terrace of her house. And yet there she was, having brought her daughter alone to the National Capital Region looking for the best options for her girl. Having been turned away by some of the hospitals did not deter her and she did not stop till she got the right help. We met another father, also from Uttar Pradesh who had brought his little daughter for treatment. His tears of joy and gratitude would not stop after the successful completion of her procedure.
We are proud of our brave little girls
We meet so many such parents too who take pride that their daughter has been healed. That she will now be able to live her life and that her scar will be her biggest source of strength.
This National Girl Child Day, let us step back and take a conscious decision to help girls around us get equal access to opportunities, especially when it comes to a life saving intervention to treat a defect that she was born with – as everyone deserves a chance at life.