Updated: Aug 31, 2018
By Ihtiram ul Haq Khattak
“We will be forever thankful to you for saving our child”; he said, adding “it was beyond our imagination that we will ever be able to treat this child”. These were a father’s spontaneous reactions when our follow up officer called to enquire about Aqsa’s health on the 5th post-operative day, which is a regular feature of the follow up procedures at Heartfile Health Financing. The father’s voice was full of emotion and tears welled in the eyes of the follow up officer while narrating the account.
The father, Waris had borne his share of hardship in life. After the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan ravaged his home and razed it to the ground, a stroke of fate gave him refuge in Hyderabad. Here, he set up home in a one room house in the city’s squalor and started raising his two children and elderly parents. His meagre earnings as a low-end salesman were hardly sufficient to provide for anything other than the very basic.
Memories of that nightmare on October 8, 200, when the earthquake struck, still plagued his thoughts, which took a massive human toll, with more than 70,000 people dead. His past disaster-related ordeal and his present status of poverty were not the only two tragedies in his life. Until recently there had also been another.
Abdul Waris’s daughter Aqsa was diagnosed at one-year of age with a congenital heart condition, termed Ventricular Septal Defect. Since then the child suffered repeated episodes of unconsciousness and was not growing; she was perpetually ill with shortness of breath and cough. Waris had taken her to three hospitals but the treatment plan recommended in all three was the same. The child needed to undergo surgery. Waris’ predicament was his inability to afford it. The disposables needed for a heart operation cost money even in public hospitals and this surgery was beyond his meager envelope. He and his wife bore the pain of watching the child wither in front of their eyes. It had almost become a cycle—the child complaining of spells of dizziness, then suddenly becoming unconscious, a doctor’s visit, surgery suggested, and then silence—a tragedy by any standard.
Ventricular Septal Defect is a correctable congenital condition. In layman’s language it entails a ‘hole in the heart’ connecting the right and the left sides, mixing the clean and the unclean blood. It afflicts 2 in 1000 live births. 30% close spontaneously and in cases when it doesn’t, surgery becomes an imperative. Timely and appropriate treatment can confer a near normal life span and absence of it dooms the child to heart failure complications, leading to eventual death in early adulthood.
Waris had lost all hope when his child had another spell of unconsciousness in Hyderabad. With a heavy heart he took her again to the hospital knowing well what the outcome will be. But to his surprise this time round he was told that an NGO provides support exactly for Aqsa’s kind of patients. A speedy assessment followed, and a decision was conveyed to the doctor and Waris within 24 hours about Aqsa’s eligibility. PKR 150,000 were committed by Heartfile Financing for the needed surgical disposables for the heart surgery.
To the best of our knowledge, based on the most recent follow up, Aqsa is doing well and is recovering. The catastrophe averted may not be fully evident for now. In future, on the day of her marriage, when she looks radiant as a beautiful young woman not many will know that she could have been meters deep in a grave, an outcome many other girls with congenital heart conditions endure worldwide. We feel privileged to have the capability to be responsive to such critical needs, but without our esteemed donors it would not be possible.
Ihtiram ul Haq Khattak is the leading Senior Manager of Heartfile Health Financing