Heart Disease in children

India is inching towards becoming the heart disease capital of the world. With the increasing lifestyle irregularities and stresses of the 21st century, heart disease is extremely common in the age group of 30+. However the incidence of the disease in young children is also very high.

Heart disease in children can be of different kinds, congenital and acquired heart disease. Around one percent of children in India are born with congenital heart disease and some of them are often referred to as blue babies. There was a time when there was no cure for this and parents were just informed the inevitable fate of their child. However medical advancements over the past few decades have made it possible for most children suffering from congenital heart disease to live normal lives post timely surgical intervention.

Speaking on this topic, Padma Shri Awardee Dr A Marthanda Pillai, National President, Indian Medical Association (IMA) & Padma Shri Awardee Dr K K Aggarwal, Hony Secretary General, Indian Medical Association (IMA) said, “Rheumatic heart disease is common amongst school going children and develops post strep throat infection. Given this it is always recommended that parents must never ignore a cough in a child who has no cough and sneezing since that is the most common indication of the bacterial infection which often leads to the development of heart disease affecting the child’s heart valves. While the sore throat, or swollen joints and fever, in the child may get okay and disappear, the valves of the heart run the risk of getting permanently damaged causing rheumatic heart disease. The affected children may require valve replacement, which if not done in time may even result in death.”

A large number of children with congenital heart disease and rheumatic heart disease die because of non-availability of operative facilities in the country, especially for complex congenital heart disease. Additionally the lack of funds for the usually expensive surgery forces parents to ignore the illness and accept the fate of their child. However what a lot of people do not realize is that there are ways to overcome this and help can be sought.

The following options are available for children with heart diseases who cannot afford treatment:
*Sameer Malik Heart Care Foundation Fund, an initiative by Heart Care Foundation of India provides assistance to the needy and underprivileged children suffering from heart disease in need of surgical intervention. Anyone can call the Helpline no. 09958771177, which is open from Monday to Saturday and ask for help
*Various Rotary Clubs in the country provide free surgery to children with heart disease.
*‘Being Human’, the organization run by the actor Salman Khan also provides financial assistance to children with congenital heart diseases.
*Most states provide assistance of up to Rs 1 lakh for congenital heart disease to children if they possess BPL or equivalent card in the state.
*The Delhi State Government also provides free heart treatment to children whose parents have annual income of less than Rs 3 lakhs.
*Parents can apply through legal counsel to municipal corporations for assistance, through their local MLA or through their MP to the Prime Minister Relief Fund.
*Children can also approach Puttaparthi Heart Centre at Bengaluru, which provides free surgeries to such children.
*Various NGOs and associations also provide free treatment; for example, Maheshwari Club provides free treatment to Maheshwari families.
*People can also approach their religious organizations like Gurudwaras, Mosque committees and Hindu Mahasabhas etc. for free assistance in respective category.
*Under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, people can also approach respective High Courts for directions to respective state heart departments to avail free surgeries.
*In every state, there are government hospitals, which provide free surgeries; for example, GB Pant Hospital provides free surgery to everyone with heart disease.
*Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi provides free heart surgery to all BPL patients from across the country.
*People can also approach various PSUs for assistance under their CSR policy.
*People can also approach various large private companies for assistance under their CSR policy.

The end result is – no children in India should die of curable heart disease just because he or she cannot afford it.