Reflection of Dr. Manasi Shringarpure on her experiences of fighting Congenital Heart Defect !

By Child Heart Foundation - July 20, 2020

You know how there are incidents that greatly impact your life? The incidents where you remember the smallest detail, for years to come and at the same time you don't really remember much of that entire day.

There were three such days/incidents in my life :

First, was when I about 9 years old. I clearly remember the hospital ward, the nurses, the pain from sticking the IV needle in more than twice, the poorly lit room with two beds, one of which was mine. I was about to undergo a procedure for my heart defect which I didn't know much about. I mean, can you expect a 9 year old to know about a normal or in my case, an abnormal human heart? For all I knew, my heart looked like the heart emoji we all use.

And yet, my 9 year old brain always knew something was not right. You see, for as long as I can remember, my parents have been taking me for a visit to the doctor's even when I wasn't feeling unwell.

I definitely knew the difference between my 'fever-doctor' and the doctor who puts tiny little vacuum pumps on my chest and looks at a long piece of paper with squiggly lines on it. And to say that these visits were frequent would be an understatement. They were every few months, every time my dad was back after working away from home, every time my mom thought I looked too tired to do every day tasks and so on. 

Mom would never take me alone, there was always someone along with us, either my dad when he was home, or my cousin or my uncle. I think she always feared the day my doctor would say, that it's gotten too bad and that they needed to intervene.

That day did eventually come when I was 9 but thankfully, my dad was with us when the doctor was explaining things. I was referred to another doctor; it was like I had level up-ed in a game. This new doctor had a bigger waiting room, more professional looking receptionists, had fancier equipments and a more serious tone to his voice than the previous one.

Doctor visits and my childhood went hand in hand. They took up the entire day, a whole lot of traveling, a lot of waiting and observing people, and kids crying and me wondering why they were crying. I was somehow always easy going for my parents and doctors at these visits.

So, anyway, since I was pretty much used to the people in white coats and their waiting rooms, this new fancier change didn't phase me. I continued to observe the worried adults and kids crying for no reason. It was on this day, that I finally realised what was actually happening. I attribute my limited discovery to my great observation skills and smartness, but mostly just listening to whatever gibberish the doctor was saying and picking up on words and phrases like : 'Bad', 'Severe', 'Difficult in future', 'Operation', 'Heart',  and so on. 9 year olds were smart even then. So it wasn't difficult to put two and two together. Or in this case two and 20 different words and phrases.

Then it all made sense!  I was used to being tired and breathless time and again. Climbing even 2 flights of stairs or running a ridiculously short distance and still needing to catch a breath. This was all too normal for me. But these other kids my age; wow! They ran up and down those stairs like they had super human strength. I always wondered why they could and I couldn't. Oh, and the dizziness and fainting. If there was a degree available for these, I'd be awarded a PhD in my childhood. Maybe it was due to these issues that I grew up to be extremely unathletic. But I wouldn't totally blame it on my health, I do have terrible reflexes naturally. Word of advice : Never throw things at me! Haha.

The second such day was when I was 24 and was graduating. The difference between that day and this day was huge. For starters, I knew that my heart did not look like the heart emoji. The black and red robes, the balloons, the bouquets, and me on a stage in front of my friends, teachers, and families of my fellow graduates.

Me; the girl who thought those squiggly lines were some kind of art and the round piece of a stethoscope was a microphone that the doctor speaks into, was holding an actual microphone herself. She was delivering a commencement speech at her graduation from medical school. After this day, she herself would wear a white coat, look at those artistic lines, and hear heart and breath sounds with the 'microphone'.

Third was after I was back home, with my shiny new degree. My mom said, "I still can't believe it. One day, when you were a baby and had just finished having a seizure, I wondered how I would explain things to you when you grew up. About your condition, about how and why it happened, about what you need to do from now on, things you need to be careful of. How could I answer questions, even I had little knowledge about? That day, a thought crossed my mind for a very brief moment. What if you became a doctor? You'd know everything about it. And I won't have to worry about what to tell you."

My mom, before this day, had never mentioned this. Simply cause it was a fleeting thought all those years back which she happen to remember once she saw my degree. I was shook, in a good way though.

Through it all I have met amazing people, who've pulled through conditions far worse than mine. One may think I was unlucky for being born with a heart defect. But I see it differently. I was lucky to have a defect which has a fairly good recovery rate, I was lucky to have doctors who were amazing at what they did. And most of all, I am lucky to have my parents and my family.

But not everyone is as lucky as I am. Not every child or their parents and families have the means necessary to help their condition or even detect it in time. If only these kids have a chance at a relatively normal life, they can do so much! I know of painters, engineers, and even athletes who all suffer from different heart conditions. The CHD warriors are found in all walks of life.

So, I hope that these kids are also given a chance at life. After all, you never know, they may even grow up to treat you someday. :)


About the author

Dr. Manasi Shringarpure.

MD Physician (Russia)

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