Every year, December 6 dawns with a special significance for K.D. Muralidharan, an electronics technician now leading a retired life at Kunnamkulam in Thrissur district.
It is also a red-letter day for his former doctor, the renowned cardiac surgeon and founder-director of Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology M.S. Valiathan.
Mr. Muralidharan says that he still feels the same pride and happiness that he did 27 years ago, in becoming a small part of the nation’s medical history, when Dr. Valiathan and his team successfully implanted in him the first ever indigenously developed mechanical heart valve prosthesis of the nation, the TTK-Chitra valve.
And the special bond between the doctor and his patient still continues.
“Dr. Valiathan called me on Wednesday morning, something he does every year, without fail. And I am happy to report to him that I am hale and hearty, that despite minor ailments, my heart has been going strong,” says Mr. Muralidharan.
The SCTIMST brought out the second generation Chitra valve in 2016. The first generation valve has since been implanted in over one-lakh patients across the country, without a single report of structural dysfunction till date, Mr. Muralidharan being one of the living examples.
The low-cost, fully indigenous mechanical valve has been a life-saver for millions of poor in India who suffer heart valve damage at a young age due to rheumatic heart disease, like him.
“I still remember the day Dr. Valiathan explained the surgery I had to undergo and how the mechanical valve will replace my diseased aortic valve and how it would work. I did not have even a moment’s doubt or fear because he told me that he will take care of everything,” Mr. Muralidharan says. He has been on regular follow-up at the SCTIMST all these years and though he had to get a pacemaker implanted in 2001, the Chitra valve has kept its promise of a service life of 50 or 60 years.
The TTK-Chitra heart valve story has not just been the one of determination and perseverance but the fact that an indigenous technology developed in this part of the world could stand the test of time and emerge so triumphantly.