The Healer’s Journal: Rebirth, rejoice and reconnect
November 9, 2021 | Contributed by Dr Manisha Chakrabarti
I remember it was an afternoon and I was in the Outpatient Patient Department for the final rounds of the day. And the next moment, a father enters with tears filled in his eyes, begging me with folded hands.
Almost touching my feet, he says‘Doctor,you are like living God to us, please save my only son’s life.I’ve already lost my elderson last year,when he was 6 years old.This child is only three and half years old and he is our lifeline. Please save him!’
As a doctor, there have been many moments in my medical career which have taken me by surprise, but that day, in that moment, every blood cell in my body felt paralysed for a few seconds, as my brain tried to analyse; who am I?Am I God? Why is this man calling me that?
From the time I could set a goal, I wanted to become a doctor, because it fascinated me, that one human being is capable of diagnosing and treating the problem of another!
And my inspiration was none other than my own grandfather.He served his entire life in a remote village of Murshidabad, in West Bengal.For me the most exciting time of the year were my winter holidays, when I’d get to stay at Mamabaari (grandfather’s place) and I’d observe him treating his patients.Watching him made me set my mind to learn how to diagnose an illness and save lives.
Back to the moment when I was called God!
It was terrifying, seeing that father place so much trust in me, but I closed my eyes and asked my grandfather’s blessing from the heavens.
The next minute I was motoring into an emergency mode because I could see that the child was breathing deeply, seemed drowsy and limp. A quick examination revealed that he was in shock and had to be shifted to an Intensive Care Unit immediately.I gave himmedicines to improve his blood pressure and put him on an oxygen support to ensure he could breathe comfortably.
Unfortunately, his tests revealed that there was an inflammation in his heart, that was not allowing it to function beyonda 15% capacity. I increased his medicine to improve heart contractions and support to his lungs through ventilation. Buthis condition was deteriorating, and I knew that we were going to lose the child.His father’s tears were challenging me to look for ways how I could save his son. And the only hope I had was in the form of an assisting device and a plan for future heart transplant if needed.I explained every aspect of the treatment plan, along with taking awritten consent,and the entire cardiac team got together toimplant a biventricular assist deviceto support both the right and left pumping chambers of his heart.
His operation was one of a kind, my first, the hospital’s first and the first oneon such a small child in north India.After the fourth day of surgery, his heart function seemed to have improved very marginally. But by the eight day it felt like all prayers were finally being heard when his heart functioning rate came up to 40%. After that the device could not be kept for much longer due to the risk of infection and clot formation within the system.So, on the tenth day, we disconnected it and kept him on a ventilator with strict ICU care, while hismedications for the heart were titrated. Within another week, the team monitored and helped him come off the ventilator.
Faith of his parents
Dr Manisha with one of her little patients
Through the duration of this treatment, the trust and cooperation of his parents allowedus to do something we did for the very first time. They were like any other family, but sometimes ordinary people are capable of building the most extra ordinary bonds. Since the father worked in a shop in Chandni Chowk, Delhi with modest earnings,all the shopkeepers in that area donated and through this combined contribution, he was able to bear the cost of his son’s treatment. At that time, I was unaware of any NGO for child heart surgery, so couldn’t recommend them anything either.
But the way his entire community of shopkeepers stepped in to help, reinstated my faith in humanity!
I thanked my grandpa after the child was discharged, for blessing me from the heavens and bestowing that courage and strength in me.
Thousands of children are unable to get prompt treatment due to unawareness surrounding such heart conditions. In a country like India, where around 68% of the population is below the poverty line,it is impossible for families to bear such huge costs of heart treatment for children!It is high time, we think of all the people of our country as one, because only helping each other can take us forward. I feel lucky to be associated with a children heart foundation, as we work together to nurture the generations ahead.
It takes nine months for a mother to give birth to a life. For us doctors, it becomes a moral responsibility to give life a chance for every child, because who knows what greatness the childmight bring for mankind oneday!
Together with Genesis Foundation, which is an NGO for child heart surgery,we are regularly treating underprivileged children with heart defects. Usually just onesurgery or intervention can save a child’s life, allowing them to lead a near-normallife.
We all have the power to win this battle for children with heart defects. Me as a doctor, some as volunteers, while others donating towards the cause of children heart foundation. So go on, help in any way possible and feel what happiness means as you become a part of something bigger than yourself.
With over 27 years of experience, Dr Manisha Chakrabarti is a highly experienced pediatric cardiologist working with Apollo Hospitals, Delhi. She has special training in 3D echocardiography, fetal echocardiography and advanced techniques of cardiac catheter-interventions.