Be CHD Aware Today!

India has seen a great rise in technological advancements in the medical field over the past few years for the treatment of critically ill children. There are now cures for ailments that at one point would have been considered to be a death sentence. Similarly, for Congenital Heart Defects (CHD), India now has the capability of helping and curing children who are affected by it and providing them with a new chance at life. But despite all the help available, a large number of children succumb to CHD. This can be due to a multitude of factors, the main being lack of awareness and of course the lack of availability of funds to pay for the surgery.

For one fifth of the children with CHD in India, the first year is highly critical in the treatment for CHD. But the symptoms that come along with the ailment are often viewed as something that isn’t of great concern. Being unable to do any sort of activity without getting breathless is equated to the child just being weak, and so is contracting chest infections frequently. A more common ailment with children born in underprivileged families is malnutrition, and inability to gain weight, which is another symptom of CHD, is blamed on that. Hence, no action is taken. A lot of people believe that if their child is diagnosed with CHD, there is no hope for them and don’t pursue any possible cures since it would be of no use anyway. All this boils down to one thing, lack of awareness.

Traditionally in rural India, childbirths still take place at home, hence most of the births occur in this way and not in a hospital. A simple post birth scan could rule out any possible problem right at birth itself, and any immediate action required can be taken. But when a child is birthed at home, there aren’t any tests that could be conducted, rather the person who helps birth the child, the midwife, isn’t sensitized to symptoms of CHD either, hence the issue remains undetected. Post one year of the child’s birth without any intervention, the chances of the child living up to adulthood reduces significantly.

Taking all of these issues into account, this highlights why awareness is so important. People need to be sensitized to the symptoms of CHD and need to be reminded that help is out there and there is a cure for their child. There are medical facilities available that could possibly give their child a chance at a normal life and all is not lost. We try to spread this message through screening camps in remote parts of the country and these have proven to be greatly successful in diagnosing and pointing the families in the direction of help.

But awareness not only applies to the families of the affected, but also to the general public. A lot of children born with CHD come from poor families who have no means of accessing or affording medical care. Foundations, like ours help by funding surgeries for the one’s who can’t afford it. Over the years we have supported families with a monthly income of Rs 10,000 or lesser. But as of 1st April 2020, we are raising that to Rs 15,000 or lesser per month.

It is through CSR partnerships and donations from people, we are able to save more and more children. A lot of corporates focus on issues that are given more publicity like education, clean water etc. It doesn’t go to say that these issues aren’t important – but think about it this way – life precedes everything. Without this, there can be nothing. Spreading awareness is so important as it highlights CHD as an issue and gives it the attention that it requires.

Children are the future of our country. Their security is what guarantees the security of tomorrow. Hence, isn’t it important to protect the children of today? Congenital Heart Defects proves to be a fatal disease, but the chances of the child living a normal life is so much higher. So, help us help India in being more aware for the treatment for critically ill children today!

– Contributed by Ananya Ravi

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