A Fighter: Barath Sasikumar
March 22, 2021 | Contributed by R Srivatsan
Working at a foundation dealing with heart disorders, I’ve always been inspired by children and their resilience and Barath’s story bears testimony to it.
At 14 years and 2 months of age, Barath Sasikumar is not your average teenager.
Currently studying in 9th standard at a government school, he is wise beyond his years with a fondness for Tamil literature and a dream to pursue a career in the same.
A year after his birth on 28th December 2006, Barath developed a high-grade fever with breathing problems. His parents, Pandiselvi and Sasikumar got him admitted at a government hospital where he was given medicines and stabilized. The treating doctor conducted an Echo and concluded that Barath had a hole in his heart and one of the main blood vessels was not functioning properly. An angiography was recommended by the doctors sincehis lung pressure was also on the higher side.
Unfortunately, in one of the rarest complications followed by an angiography, Barath developed a blood clot in his right ankle. He had to undergo an emergency surgery to remove the blood clot, but the damage was permanent. Due to insufficient blood supply to the right ankle, it lead to a disability of the same. He was discharged after 2 weeks from the hospital and all the expenses were covered under State Insurance Scheme.
It was a huge setback for Barath and coming to terms with it took him a while. From walking to school, to depending on his father to drop him by cycle was a huge adjustment. Not only that, not being able to play with his friends was extremely upsetting but he found a way around it. He began to concentrate more on his studies instead and invest more time in watching Tamil cinema, with Suriya being his favourite actor.
Post-discharge, Barath stayed on a yearly follow-up at the hospital and every April/May an Echo would be conducted. His parents were told that the hole would heal and close on its own. But in January 2021, Barath developed high grade fever with breathlessness and a chest infection.This time, Sasikumar took his son to a private physician for consultation where he was detected with a murmur and they were asked to consult a pediatric cardiologist.
Luckily one of Sasikumar’s relatives in Tiruppur knew a doctor at GKNM Hospital, Coimbatore, so he took his son to that hospital. After the Echo was conducted, Dr Vijayakumar patiently explained to them the need for an open-heart surgery for Barath because he had a congenitalheart defect called Bicuspid Aortic Valve. Normally the aortic valve has 3 leaflets, but Barath had only two leaflets and the third leaflet was fused with the cusp of the valve. But Sasikumar felt helpless, earning Rs 7500 per month as a farm labourer, he had no money to fund his son’s treatment. The hospital reached out to us, as we’re a foundation dealing with heart disorders and with support from WPP India CSR Foundation, the surgery was planned.
To cure the defect, Dr Vijayakumar was going to create a new Aortic valve by using Barath’s pericardium and tissues through a procedure called Ozaki procedure.
Barath was admitted on 9th March, 2021 and was operated on the following day. His surgery lasted for 6 hours and since the Aortic valve was created using Barath’s pericardium, the use of an external valve was avoided, thereby reducing the overall cost of the surgery.
At 14 years 2 months, Barath is one of the youngest children in India to undergo an Ozaki procedure on the left side of the heart.