Due to financial constraints, 18-year-old Anamika had no choice but suffer the effects of ventricular septal defect (VSD) -- a hole in the heart that’s present at birth.
For years, she had been ailing without hope at her home in Rajoir upazila under Madaripur district.
Her health would have likely worsened had she not undergone a simple but costly medical procedure -- done free of cost -- at the National Institute of Cardiovascular Disease (NICVD) in Dhaka recently.
Anamika has left the hospital and is now doing well.
“We brought Anamika here [NICVD] around six months ago when doctors suggested this procedure. Anamika’s mother did not have the financial resources to afford the expensive treatment. Being advised, we waited for this free of cost operation,” Nur Hossain, Anamika’s uncle who brought her to NICVD, told The Daily Star recently.
Like Anamika, a total of 100 children and youngsters have undergone the non-invasive procedure from January 4 to 11 -- completely free of cost, thanks to donation from Qatar Red Crescent.
A team of surgeons from NICVD and Qatar has been applying the non-surgical intervention at the paediatric surgery unit of the hospital.
“These children had no option but to undergo this procedure. However, their families are not capable of bearing the medical costs. We selected them through a process,” Dr Abdullah Shahriar, head of the paediatric surgery unit of NICVD, told The Daily Star.
This is the fourth charity programme at NICVD funded by the donor agency.
In the three previous instalments, 250 children were served.
“Unless we receive financial aid, we have no capacity to serve these disadvantaged children, and the donors have pledged to continue assistance in future,” Dr Shahriar added.
According to the surgeons, each of this non-surgical VSD repair costs around Tk 16 lakh in Bangladesh.
Approximately 75 percent of small VSDs close on their own within the first year or by age 10, and do not require any treatment other than careful monitoring.
Adults with unrepaired VSDs have a higher risk of heart valve inefficiency and infections -- a potentially life-threatening infection of the heart -- according to doctors.
The rate of VSD is 8-11 per thousand live births in Bangladesh while around 25,000 of such children die each year, according to a study by doctors of Combined Military Hospital (CMH).
“Only 30 percent of children with VSD, whose defects are not repaired on their own, can be cured through this technique. Unfortunately, 70 percent of them require open heart surgery,” Dr Shahriar said.
VSD repair is done through two methods: open heart surgery and the catheter-based technique, which are done to correct a hole between the left and right ventricles of the heart.
In the catheter-based technique, the interventionalist closes the hole by setting up a closure device in the area, which is sent using a long and thin tube.
There is lack of well-equipped infrastructure as well as expert surgeons to apply such non-surgical method in the country, according to Dr Shahriar.
He said the Qatar Red Crescent has assured to provide support to build up a well-equipped VSD intervention facility, a CCU and an ICU at NICVD upon government approval.
“We, on behalf of Qatari people, have come here to serve our Bangladeshi brothers and sisters who are incapable to bear the expenses of such surgery,” Dr Khalid A Alemelhoda, medical convoy’s coordinator, told The Daily Star.
They would continue such efforts in future, he added.
It should be noted that Qatar Red Crescent has also been running three other medical missions for displaced Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar.
Besides, the organisation conducts charity programmes in Bogura, Rajshahi and Sylhet to help the poor.