The Healer’s Journal – My Passion of being a “Dil Ka Doctor”
December 12, 2023 | Contributed by Dr Debabrata Nandi
Born in an academic family with my father being an engineer and mother a teacher, since a child, I always wanted to be a doctor. During my biology class in school the heart always intrigued me. I was fascinated by the idea of a beating muscle in our body. When I cleared my medical entrance examination with flying colours in the first attempt and entered medical school at Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College, Kolkata, I dreamt of becoming a cardiologist. Although at that time I did not have much idea about the subject. During my internship I developed interest in treating unwell babies.
I always wanted to be a DIL Ka Doctor – DR Debabrata Nandi
At that time, I never knew that I will become a Pediatric Cardiologist one day. I didn’t even know much about Pediatric Cardiology and child heart treatment. I passed MBBS in the first attempt and cleared the postgraduate entrance examination with a good rank. I chose to become a Pediatrician as I loved the idea of treating unwell babies. The best gift has always been their smiling faces when they go back to their mother. It’s both an art and science to treat patients who cannot speak and you diagnose them and give the best possible treatment. During my postgraduate training I often came across blue babies, but most of them got referred to cardiac centres for treatment. We used to send them to cardiac centres to undergo echocardiography for getting a cardiac diagnosis. As a trainee I enjoyed tallying my differential diagnosis based on clinical examination with echocardiography reports. However, it was extremely disheartening to see many of them succumb without proper treatment and care. In those days awareness about pediatric cardiology among the masses was very little and there were few NGO’s for heart treatment in India which were working to build awareness as is the case today.
After completing my MD in Paediatrics, I got an opportunity to attend an interview where I got selected for a prestigious Fellowship in Neonatology at Oxford University hospital, UK. While I was making up my mind in joining neonatology, I got selected for Pediatric cardiology in my DNB superspeciality examination. I was in a double mind to choose between an overseas fellowship in neonatology or a Pediatric Cardiology training programme. However I chose my long cherished dream of becoming a cardiologist – “Dil Ka Doctor”.
After successfully clearing DNB Pediatric cardiology examination, I applied for further Fellowship training in Pediatric Cardiology and Fetal Cardiology at Sydney Children’s hospital, Australia and cleared my interview. During my training in Australia, I strongly felt the difference in child heart treatment between the two countries. I made up my mind to provide same quality care to children in my country and finally returned to join Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences, Narayana Health, Kolkata as a Consultant Interventional Pediatric Cardiologist. Transitioning from a trainee to a consultant is a difficult task as you are directly related to patient care. Slowly and steadily, you master skills. We screened thousands of patients at West Bengal with the help of the Sishu Sathi Scheme under the Rasthriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram program. We realized that many poor patients were suffering due to a lack of knowledge and resources. The realization deepened my sense of responsibility towards society, which has given us the opportunity to treat these tiny hearts.
During my practice I came across many children to whom we cannot provide any cardiac surgery due to late presentation. I felt the need for early diagnosis and timely referral. Fetal echocardiography is a very important tool in detection of congenital heart disease even before birth while the baby is still their mother’s womb. I had a special interest in this field during my fellowship training and started connecting with gynaecologist friends and doing routine fetal echo during pregnancy and early detection of significant congenital heart disease before birth for appropriate counselling, timely referral and treatment of expecting couples.
Dr Nandi in the hospital
The most attractive part of pediatric cardiology to me is treating the patients without any scar mark on body. We regularly close holes in heart like ASD, VSD, PDA by device closure or microsurgical techniques where the defects are closed permanently without any ‘cuts’ or ‘scars’ and the patients recover quickly in contrast to open heart surgeries; Or open blocked valves & vessels by balloon angioplasty or stent implantation.
The journey has not been without its challenges, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. I remember one case where a 27 day old sick newborn baby with Obstructed TAPVC was admitted in our hospital. However, the baby was COVID positive and not fit for undergoing surgery. I took the risks and took the baby to Cardiac cathlab and relieved the obstruction by balloon angioplasty. The baby became stable and few weeks later after recovering form COVID, underwent cardiac surgery successfully. I was overjoyed to see the smiling face of the baby and the entire family and relatives during discharge. Later this case was published in The Times of India in their pan India edition.
Slowly and steadily, I could establish an excellent Pediatric cardiac service at Kolkata and other districts of West Bengal. I continue to do regular OPDs in nearby states like Assam, Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa and also Bangladesh. My dream of bringing smiles to the faces of children with Congenital Heart Defects continues to drive me forward. I am determined to expand access to quality Congenital Heart Defect treatment and care, particularly in the underprivileged regions and sections of society. Till now, I have performed more than 40,000 echocardiographies including Fetal Echocardiography, and I have treated more than 2,000 kids in the cardiac cath lab. If I look back into my journey as a Pediatric cardiologist, I can proudly say that I am very satisfied, and by the grace of God, I am able to treat these poor, unwanted and unwelcomed children of our society who are now living a normal life.
I would like to thank Genesis Foundation, an NGO for heart treatment in India for their support in saving the lives of small lesser privileged kids. They are also actively involved in raising awareness about Pediatric Cardiology in India, which is an area that requires significant attention. Unfortunately, many parts of the country still lack adequate Pediatric cardiac services, making the support of NGOs like Genesis Foundation crucial.
Dr Debabrata Nandi is Senior Consultant Interventional Pediatric Cardiologist & Fetal Cardiologist at NH Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences, Kolkata.