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Rejuvenating heart for a new life

They read the minds to open the hearts.

"HE HAD a peaceful death. He went to bed after having normal diet, but on the next morning he was found dead." Such clichéd utterances are quite common in the village side. But not many knew that the man would have suffered a massive heart attack.

Most often the heart ailments are diagnosed and detected in much advanced stage, one of the most compelling reasons could be, quite frequently, people tend to ignore chest pain, having mistaken it for a gas trouble. In other cases, even if the heart ailment is detected much earlier, the fear of surgery forces the patient to go under cover.

Hence, the job of cardiologist has become much more demanding nowadays, as they have to read the minds of their patients. At first, they should clear all the apprehensions of their patients before going in for the surgical procedure.

And here is where, the Apollo Hospitals, Madurai, is doing a yeoman service. Over 570 cardiac surgeries in just three years with the maximum standing at 250 in a calendar year, all done at 97 per cent success rate, a heartening fact indeed.

All these successes are good enough testimony to the excellence of the team comprising cardio-thoracic surgeons Dr. Sridhar, Dr T Menthol Kumar, Dr Benedict Raj, Junior Medical Officers Dr. Mathangi, Dr. Sundararajan and Dr. Ramanan, Chief Cardiac Anaesthetist Dr. P. Selvakumar and Anaesthesiologist Dr Ravishankar.

The fact only proves that the number of people suffering from cardiac ailments in these parts is on a par with any leading city. "In 2020, coronary epidemic will be the largest single cause of death in India, according to a World Health Organisation report," says Dr. Sridhar, one of the leading cardio-thoracic surgeons.

Whereas in cities like Coimbatore, hospitals with basic infrastructure for heart surgeries were established 15 years ago, but in cities like Madurai it came much later.

For any hospital to perform a cardiac surgery, basic infrastructure is a must. "You cannot blow a bomb without infrastructure. A successful cardiology department needs a good lab and ancillary departments," explains Sridhar.

"Valve malfunction is an ailment, which could be prevented if certain basic preventive methods are adopted. Never take any rheumatic fever for granted, as the fever with symptoms of sore throat may affect the valves and the prolonged illness sometimes damages the valves. Bacteria licks the throat and kicks the heart, goes the saying," points out Sridhar.

There are many apprehensions about the life after a cardiac surgery. "It is like any other surgery. In normal cases, 70 per cent of the patients get back to normal life, whereas 20 per cent live in self-imposed exile and just 10 per cent will not be able to lead a normal life. And that too is due to other medical complications," says Sridhar.

"All the cases operated at the Apollo Hospitals are generally successful. Even if there are failures, it is not because of any shortcomings in the surgical procedure or medical care, because of other complications. It is just an attempt to save a life. In some of the cases, the operation is forced by the patients themselves, as the doctors do not want to take risk," adds the head of the Cardiology Department, Apollo Hospitals.

Any cardiac surgery takes four to five hours, right from preparation to finish. "Some days we may have to handle more than three cases a day. At those times, the stress the cardiac surgeon suffers is beyond expression. Still the sheer love for the job drives the surgeon to perform his work," opines Sridhar.

Just when speaking about the amount of effort the cardio surgeons put in, he was reminded of a surgery, which lingered in his memory for long. "He was a Malaysian businessman. He had a big tumour of 5-6 cm inside the Atrium — quite large considering the space inside the Atrium. He was also a chronic alcoholic and had liver complications. We successfully removed the tumour, a remarkable achievement," says Sridhar.

Compared to the number of cases reported for heart ailments, the availability of cardio-thoracic surgeons is relatively less. "To become a good cardio-thoracic surgeon, one has to complete six years of studies after the MBBS degree, and then he needs a minimum experience of 10 years to handle complications individually," reasons out Sridhar.

Though America stands first in technical innovations in this branch of medicine, India is on a par with any other leading country, when it comes to application of those innovations, says Sridhar.

Whatever is said, prevention is always better than cure. Hence, stroll everyday to keep the cardiac surgeon away


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