Cuddalore is a district in the Southern state of Tamil Nadu, an old port city, famous for its temples. It boasts a literacy rate of 79 per cent and a gender ratio of 984 females per 1000 males.
We at Genesis Foundation (GF) support children with congenital heart defects and have for some time now made an active choice to be at the forefront of conducting screening camps with our partner hospitals across India. There are many children who don’t even see the light of a proper medical system for timely diagnosis and in our endeavour to save lives, we want every child in India to have timely access to good facilities. Such camps help identify children at the grass-root level who suffer from congenital heart defects where little to no facility of treatment exist. These camps also reduce the financial burden on the families of these children who otherwise have to travel to cities to get a proper diagnosis after which they can’t afford the treatment.
At such screening camps, when children are detected they are counselled by the Doctors and our HOPE team to get the interventions required. Once agreed, all formalities are processed and each child is given a tentative date for treatment.
With this in mind, one of our partner hospitals – Miot Hospital, in Chennai approached us for a camp in Cuddalore. So far GF has conducted 8 such screening camps in India. Without blinking an eye, we agreed to collaborate as an initiative for making little hearts child care possible.
The date had been set – 6th July 2019 and I would be attending to represent GF. The initial ground work was done by the hospital itself, the venue narrowed down was the District Hospital in Cuddalore town and all requisite permissions were obtained. All necessary information regarding the camp was disseminated across the district to ensure maximum coverage and a good turnout for the attendance at the camp. Dr Harapriya B (Consultant Pediatric Cardiology) from Miot Hospital attended the camp with me from Chennai. I landed in Chennai and together, we made our way along the East Coast Road, surrounded with breath-taking views – the sea on one side and coconut plantations on the other. The air infused with the sweet smell of hope that our partnership was enroute to bring to some families in Cuddalore. We covered the distance in around four and a half hours. We ensured that we stopped at an old Ganesha temple in Pondicherry as an old tradition suggests that all work should begin after offering prayers to Lord Ganesha for blessings.
As we arrived at our destination, we were surprised. At first instance when one thinks about hospitals with such a setup, the picture isn’t always pretty. We might envision a run-down building with a general upkeep that isn’t pleasing. But this district hospital was neat, clean and newly painted. No garbage littered, hygiene was certainly not being questioned at first glance. The District Early Intervention Centre (DEIC) had numerous rooms for examining the children. The walls were coated with colourful paintings of cartoons to entice children and keep them visually busy. The Pediatrician who I met running the centre was a young Doctor who had recently returned from her maternity leave. She was young, vibrant and full of energy and enthusiasm. Just the face every child would be welcome to seeing.
There were already ten families who had gathered in the waiting area waiting to get their children examined. The Doctor had done an initial check-up, recorded each child’s age, weight and saturation. Each family member was given a token and the waiting game had begun. I sat beside Dr Harapriya while she conducted an Echo for each child. All details during this were maintained by a social worker who had volunteered their time towards making a difference in the lives of these families.
After each Echo, Dr Harapriya took time to explain the diagnosis to each parent ensuring that they understand every detail. Every parent-displaying a sense of fear and uncertainty about what they might discover. The children of course weren’t too phased by their surroundings, they patiently awaited a small bar of dairy milk after the Echo. On the positive occasion that Dr Harapriya notified the parents that everything was normal, tears of joy welled in their eyes out of sheer relief. I was taken aback when in between seeing one child a new-born was wheeled in with oxygen support. The grandmother who accompanied the baby was naturally worried but the Echo showed that everything was normal. In another instance, a 47-year-old gentleman had come with his daughter. He was a labourer and his daughter attended a Government school where she studied in Class 6. She had been diagnosed with a congenital heart defect and was operated on when she was only six months old. She required another surgery and ideally should have been operated on when she was 3-4 years old but extreme poverty had stopped the parents from pursuing their daughter’s well-being. We strongly believe that no child should die because a lack of funds, I knew that we would be supporting her case going forward. This little girl was born after twelve years of marriage to the couple and they felt completely helpless that so they couldn’t help her. Her story moved everyone. Dr Harapriya assured help to the family, once again bringing tears of relief to another family that humanity could be depended on regardless of social status.
By noon, 46 children had been screened and 8 required some sort of intervention for CHD. I can only describe the days experience as one of gratitude, for our partner hospitals who give wings to our dream of an India devoid of CHD related deaths. It doesn’t take a lot of people to create movement, just a few with the right intentions and skill-set can truly change and bring light into the lives where darkness and helplessness lives. Thank you Miot Hospital as you pledged with us to Save Little Hearts.
“A few heart-whole, sincere, and energetic men and women can do more in a year than a mob in a century.”
Contributed by R Srivatsan