Everyone, at some point in their lives, has a change of heart. Some are lucky enough to get a new lease of life at some point in their lives. These are phrases that are used generally to describe a change in thought process, or a shift in lifestyles, jobs, or sometimes perspectives.
But there are those, who get a new lease of life thanks to a change of heart, literally. Pushpa Kumari, a young mother from Anuradhapura who had to undergo life-saving emergency surgery was one such person. She needed a new heart at the earliest. Today, Kumari sounds very relaxed and happy that she got a new lease of life thanks to the heart of a deceased donor. “I am very happy now,” she told the Nation over the phone. She sounded feeble, but relaxed and confident.
She was transferred from the Intensive Care Unit of the Kandy hospital to the normal ward last week, nearly one month after her life-changing surgery.
Kumari is not old. In fact, she is just 37, an age not associated with heart diseases. Most people her age are healthy and run around looking after their families and doing jobs. Kumari is a mother of a teenage daughter. A heart disease would have been the last thing Kumari would have expected in her life. For Kumari, life was normal until things changed for the worst.
“It all started with a normal chest pain,” she says. “I went for checkups and it was suspected that I had a problem in one of my blood vessels (artery). But I never thought I had a very weak heart, and that I would have to get a transplant,” Kumari added. However, eventually, it turned out that her heart was in very bad conditio
n and needed to be replaced, or she was in danger of losing her life.
At the time of admission to the Kandy hospital, her heart functioned only 45 per cent. The condition deteriorated further to a mere 10 per cent after one year in the hospital. She was in critical condition.
On July 7, she underwent the heart transplant surgery, which ended up saving her life. Little did Kumari know that she would be part of a landmark surgery in Sri Lankan medical history. “I’m very happy that I was part of such a landmark occasion,” was her response. But, this was no ordinary surgery, at least as far as Sri Lanka was concerned. This was to be Sri Lanka’s first heart transplant surgery, which meant that Kumari had no idea what to expect. Despite all these factors, Kumari says she was not nervous or apprehensive about the surgery.
“I was not scared of the surgery at all,” she told the Nation. She has a family which depends on her love. Her daughter is just 13 years old and is in grade 8. “My family is very happy now.” Her husband is a mason. “He earns for the family and it is not enough,” she said.
Though she is fit in the mind, Kumari is still physically weak. “But I am improving daily. I am taken for short walks so I could slowly get back to my normal self,” she says. Kumari has started to walk back into her life, slowly, knowing that she has more time on her hands.
Heart Specialist at the Heart and Chest Unit of the Kandy General Hospital, Dr. Anil Abeywickrama speaking to the Nation said that there was very little awareness among people and patients on the potential for heart transplant surgeries at the Kandy General Hospital. “People do not know about this and sometimes doctors do not refer the patients here as they are also unaware of this programme. But we have a very successful and comprehensive programme conducted at the unit and the surgery is carried out free of charge,” he pointed out. He also urged the patients to approach them at the earliest. “They should come to us before they develop lung pressure,” he added.