The Healer’s Journal: A Journey of Compassion and Expertise -From Adult Cardiac Aspirations to Pediatric Cardiac Triumphs
January 6, 2024 | Contributed by Dr Mahesh Wadhwani
In January 2007, as I embarked on my residency at the esteemed Sri Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST), my focus was solely on becoming a successful adult cardiac surgeon. Little did I know that fate had a different plan for me, leading me into the challenging yet profoundly rewarding world of pediatric cardiac surgery.
My initial posting in the pediatric and neonatal unit for three months thrust me into the daunting responsibility of managing postoperative care for infants less than three months old. The physical, emotional, and mental demands were unparalleled, with shifts lasting 36-38 hours, on every alternate day. This continuous care persisted for three intense months. Amidst this, I discovered a deep connection with these tiny warriors during their treatment for congenital heart defects.
Dr Mahesh Wadhwani holding a baby
There’s something extraordinary about treating babies—once they pass the critical phase, they bounce back to life. Witnessing their transformation from fragile patients to lively, thriving individuals upon follow-up visits is a joy that resonates long after. The impact of successful surgery extends beyond the individual, shaping the quality of life and the financial well-being of the families involved.
As my residency progressed, the choice between adult and pediatric cardiac surgery loomed. Landing a job under the supervision of the versatile Dr. Sandeep Attawar, skilled in adult, pediatric and neonatal cardiac surgery, became a turning point in my life. Witnessing complex procedures performed with ease solidified my passion for the field.
Despite my initial dream of further training in the USA, my aspirations changed and I wanted to be a surgeon who can do equal justice with pediatric and adult cardiac surgery. This further motivated me to focus on my job with Dr. Attawar, for the next 4 years. Since then, over the past 14 years, I’ve honed my skills, achieving the highest level of competence in all three branches of cardiac surgery.
In a testament to the miracles of pediatric cardiac surgery, I recount the remarkable journey of a neonate girl brought to us in a dire state of shock at the emergency room. Upon arrival, her blood pressure and pulse were unrecordable, presenting a critical situation. Despite initial challenges in resuscitation, the collaborative efforts of the ER and Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery (CTVS) ICU teams prevailed.
After 15-20 minutes of intensive care, the baby was successfully resuscitated, and a detailed echocardiogram revealed a complex congenital heart disease – obstructed supracardiac total anomalous pulmonary venous connection (TAPVC). This condition redirected oxygenated blood from the lungs to the right side of the heart, depriving the body of essential oxygen and rendering the situation incompatible with life.
To address this urgent situation, we initiated an emergency procedure in the cathlab known as Balloon Atrial Septostomy. This procedure dilated the natural hole in the atrial septum, providing the baby with improved blood flow, albeit with a still abnormal circulation. The infant was then carefully stabilized in the ICU for a day.
Dr. Mahesh Wadhwani blessing a brave survivor
The following morning, we performed a comprehensive open-heart surgery, specifically a TAPVC repair, in the operating room. Despite the fragility of the baby, who had recently recovered from shock, the post-surgery improvement was nothing short of dramatic. Astonishingly, the baby was discharged just five days after the surgery, now possessing a completely normal heart and the potential for a fully normal course of life ahead. A week of effort by our team changed the entire life of this particular baby and this is just one of the simple success stories to share with you. There are many more with much stormier paths to eventual recovery due to lifesaving treatment for congenital heart defects.
Working in corporate hospitals posed the financial constraints for many families, and treating underprivileged children was always my personal dream. This dream was eventually fulfilled by partnering with organizations like Genesis Foundation which is one of the most genuine Foundation Dealing with Heart Disorders. This financial freedom allowed me to provide life-changing surgeries to children from less privileged backgrounds. From simple procedures to the most complex neonatal surgeries, the journey has been supremely satisfying. We have now conducted multiple health camps for these underprivileged kids and performed more than 100 successful surgeries in last two years.
I extend heartfelt gratitude to The Genesis Foundation and acknowledge my entire team at Paras Hospital in Gurgaon for their collective efforts in granting a second lease of life to these resilient children.
Dr Mahesh Wadhwani
Chief Cardiac Surgeon & Head of Department Neonatal, Pediatric & Adult Cardiac Surgery, Paras Hospitals, Gurugram