This is the story of an adorable little girl, Aasia, who hails from Badin District, Sindh.
Her family struggles daily to make ends meet; the father works as a construction labourer while the mother is employed as hired domestic help in their village.
Aasia, the youngest of four daughters should have been able to enjoy playing with her sisters. However, by her second birthday she was routinely challenged by lethargy. Her growth was stunted and the tiny girl was plagued by perpetual chest infections, which created a suffocating feeling and left her fighting for every breath. Her infliction worsened to the extent that even at night, she had no relief, wakening weeping with high fever.
Her family was distressed and baffled by Aasia’s malady. A checkup from the village physician led to a diagnosis of cardiac problems. Aasia’s parents traveled to the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases in Karachi for her treatment. The cost of travel bit into the family’s meager savings, yet they persevered, spending three years making regular visits to NICVD.
Mercifully, effective help came at last - Aasia’s mother’s kind employer contacted the Patient Welfare Services at Aga Khan University Hospital. They referred her case to experts: Dr Babar, an associate professor and Dr Muneer Amanullah at the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health.
With little Aasia ‘under their wing’, an ECHO test was performed followed swiftly by an angiogram. The child was finally given a thorough diagnosis: ventricular septal defect (VSD) - a large hole in the wall between the lower two heart chambers. This could only be rectified by surgery and VSD closure.
The journey ahead was an arduous one, as the surgeons’ first task was to control Aasia’s chest infection before the surgery could take place. Duly, her treatment prepped her for her major surgery and in July 2015, she was ready. The surgery involved the concentrated efforts of a team of able surgeons, specialists and technicians and took four hours to complete.
“This is a good hospital. The staff treated us with respect, and the doctors and welfare officers were like our brothers”, says Aasia’s father.
The surgery was successful. Aasia was provided pre and postoperative care until her health was restored. After all the delays in her treatment, her operation was performed as soon as possible at AKUH. The entire cost of treatment was borne by the Patient Welfare Programme and the Patients’ Behbud Society.
“We are thankful for the support we received from AKUH, as we could not afford the care our daughter needed. Prior to coming here, Aasia had not been cured by any of the treatment she received. Now she can play happily with her sisters”, says her rejoicing father.