Tragedy comes into all our lives. And so too, it visited my friend Chitra Vishwanathan. She lost her beautiful little daughter Aishwarya who had a Congenital Heart Defect.
‘Congenital Heart Defect is a neonatal birth defect due to abnormal development of the heart that could involve the interior walls of the heart, the valves inside the heart, or the arteries and veins that carry blood to the heart or the body. Blue baby is another term used for CHD. Such babies have a blue complexion from lack of oxygen in the blood due to a congenital defect of the heart or major blood vessels.
The severity of CHD ranges from simple to complex. Simple CHDs such as a small hole between heart chambers do not require any treatment because they get corrected on its own. But complex CHDs require special medical care and multiple surgeries over a span of several years.
CHD affects approximately nine out of 1,000 new-borns and is one of the leading causes of infant mortality. Approximately 10% of infant mortality in India could be attributed to CHD alone. However, early detection and right treatment increases the chance of survival and has good long-term prognosis among new-borns. Around 90% of CHD-affected children can be treated if diagnosed early, even better if it gets detected before birth. Roughly around 1,80,000 children are born each year in India with CHD. Of these nearly 60,000 to 90,000 require early intervention.’(1)
What did Chitra do with her sense of loss and her grief? Turned it into a mission to reach as many babies with CHD as possible and try to save their lives. She set up Aishwarya Trust, which this month completes 10 years. The Trust focusses on creating awareness about CHD; undertaking massive screening camps; and free surgeries as required, in partnership with reputed doctors and hospitals. The Trust has saved 1300 young lives through surgeries in this decade–including children from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Puducherry, and other parts of India, along with children from 5 African nations (Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan, Nigeria, and Somalia) and Iraq. And created huge awareness about the issue through awareness and screening programs.
Readers, anyone you know who has turned tragedy into a mission? Do share and inspire!