This World Heart Day, guest writer Ankit Maheshwari looks back on his battle with childhood heart disease.
Ankit Maheshwari is a serial entrepreneur, heart disease survivor, and philanthropist, based in New Delhi. He has been on the OurHealthMate platform since 2015. In this story, he recalls how his life’s trajectory changed when he was given three years to live at the tender age of three – and how he came out stronger from experience.
I was born with a chronic heart disease called cardiomyopathy, a condition that impairs heart function, eventually leading to heart failure. By the time I was three, I had a pacemaker, had undergone a septal ablation procedure, and was on an intensive roster of medications. The doctors told my parents that without a heart transplant, I had three years, at most, to live.
The next couple of years were a flurry of hospital visits by day and fevered research by night. Those were the days of no household internet, and my parents spent their energy and savings contacting specialized cardiac units across the globe in the hope of landing a miracle. A few days after my fifth birthday – and two years and three months after first being waitlisted – they got the call they’d been waiting for. Boston Children’s Hospital had a five-year-old heart, of a boy killed in a freak road accident just two days earlier. His parents had decided to donate his organs, and his heart was an age-appropriate match. Two weeks and many visa formalities later, my parents and I flew to America.
A heart transplant is always a bittersweet arrangement. While I never met the parents of the little boy who gave me his heart, my family and I are forever indebted to them for saving my life. On July 3rd, 1991, I was admitted to Boston Children’s Hospital; the next day, I received my new heart. My surgery went well, and my recovery was smooth. I spent a month at the hospital, with my mother by my side. My father returned to India two weeks after the procedure, to hold down the fort at home and to manage the family business.
The causes behind cardiomyopathy are still shrouded in mystery; with science citing genetic and environmental factors as possibilities. In my family, there was – and is – no other case of cardiomyopathy. Had my parents failed to spot my symptoms – of breathlessness, lethargy and frequent loss of appetite early, it would have been too late. As someone who was fortunate enough to survive heart disease and receive a new heart, I am a living validation of the early detection.
Founded in 2013, OurHealthMate (OHM) is a health-tech startup. Their award-winning services are rooted in a three-pronged service strategy: care planning, business intelligence, and quality execution. OHM believes that health is an investment. It thus promotes preventive health care with regular health checks.
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