11 children find freedom from illness thanks to mystery donor

Thanks to a large-hearted contribution of Rs 25 lakh made by an anonymous donor, these underprivileged kids no longer have to live with congenital heart defects

This Independence Day spelled freedom from a life of illness for 11 children with congenital heart disease, after a mystery donor paid for their treatment. Between August 12 to 14, these underprivileged kids underwent surgery to fix the defects in their hearts, and are now said to be stable and recuperating.

Blue no more: Anshu (3), Meghnath (6) and Shubhangi (12) are amongst the 11 kids who no longer have to suffer a life of illness, thanks to the donor who funded the surgeries fixing their congenital heart defects.
Blue no more: Anshu (3), Meghnath (6) and Shubhangi (12) are amongst the 11 kids who no longer have to suffer a life of illness, thanks to the donor who funded the surgeries fixing their congenital heart defects.

The children were all suffering from Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) or Atrial Septal Defect (ASD), more commonly known as hole in the heart. They hail from different corners of the state, like Mumbai, Thane, Raigad and Solapur; the youngest aged 7 months, while the oldest is 13 years old. What all the kids had in common was their underprivileged background — their families could not afford the treatment, which costs upward of R1.5 lakh. However, the kids were spared a lifetime of sickness, thanks to a large-hearted senior citizen who heard of their plight and agreed to fund over R25 lakh for their surgeries.

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“Treatment of the patients was a difficult task for us as the families had already said that it would be impossible for them to bear the expense. I mentioned this to a senior citizen who had previously helped other patients of our hospital on numerous occasions. Without even a minute’s thought, he asked what the cost of the surgeries would be, and agreed to fund them,” said Dr Vijay Agarwal, chief paediatric cardiac surgeon at Fortis Hospital, Mulund, where the children are undergoing treatment.

The paediatric cardiac team of the hospital then organised the ‘Independence from heart defects camp’ from August 12-14, to mark Independence Day. During the three days, all the children underwent corrective procedures and were then sent home within a week.

Blue babies
The blue babies, as children with congenital heart diseases are referred to in medical circles, were announced to be stable and recuperating perfectly well just three days ago.

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“Had they not undergone the surgery, they would have suffered in various ways and would have become inoperable with age or fallen prey to pneumonia. Congenital heart defects are the most common kinds of birth defects. Almost 1 in 100 newborn babies have heart defects. It’s a relief that somebody with a large heart decided to give a lease of life to the children, whose families were under financial restrictions,” said Dr Swati Garekar, a paediatric cardiologist who was one of the two doctors to conduct the surgeries alongside Dr Agarwal. She added that the team of doctors had derived immense satisfaction from the initiative, and the children could now hope to lead normal lives.

Grateful families
36-year-old Rajpati Prasad had lost all hope of ever being able to afford life-saving surgery for his 3-year-old daughter Anshu (see pic), but is grateful to the donor who made it possible. “The doctors told me Anshu would have to undergo a surgery costing R2 lakh. I knew I would never be able to afford the treatment. The donor who paid for her surgery is like god for me; I could not believe it when the hospital told me the surgery had been scheduled,” said the Kalyan resident who earns a living as a plumber.

Blue Baby Syndrome
This is a term used to refer to kids with congenital heart defects, as they often have bluish complexions from the lack of oxygen in their blood. A simple, non-invasive pulse oximetry test can be performed to detect the syndrome. This test has become mandatory in most parts of the Western world. Heart defects need corrective surgery at the right time. However, India has a severe shortage of dedicated paediatric cardiac centres.

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