KUALA LUMPUR – Looking at the antics and laughter of the bubbly and playful six-year-old Preethiba Srikrishnan, no one would guess that she had undergone an open-heart operation at the National Heart Institute (IJN), here three years ago.
It had been an emotional roller-coaster ride for her mother Kalaiarasi Subramaniam, 40, after Preethiba was diagnosed with a hole in her heart in November 2012. Kalaiarasi had to quit her factory job to take care of her daughter and to add to her woes, her husband passed away not long after that due to heart-related and other health issues.
Fortunately for Kalaiarasi, the IJN Foundation (IJNF) dipped into its funds to pay for Preethiba’s pre-cardiothoracic surgery. The little girl has now been given a clean bill of health and she can look forward to a bright future.
According to Kalaiarasi, her daughter had been healthy and active since she was born and showed no signs of any chronic illness.
“One day, she came down with a fever and when it didn’t reduce, we took her to Hospital Klang for a check-up. The doctor who examined her suspected that she could have a heart problem based on the sound of her breathing,” she told Bernama, when met at the IJNF office, here recently.
BACK TO NORMAL
Preethiba was then referred to IJN where a specialist confirmed that she had a hole in her heart and that she would require surgery. Kalaiarasi was deeply distraught when she heard the news as she knew she could not afford to pay for the operation. But help came in the form of IJNF, which sponsored little Preethiba’s RM35,000 heart surgery.
“I’m truly grateful for their help. Preethiba has a good appetite now and she’s back to her normal, healthy self,” said Kalaiarasi, who lives in Kampung Jawa in Klang, Selangor.
Another young heart patient who had been given a new lease of life, thanks to IJNF, is Vinoshen Pillay, 15, a third-former at Sekolah Menengah Anderson in Ipoh, Perak.
Before he was diagnosed with a hole in the heart at the age of nine, Vinoshen used to fall ill frequently, and he always felt tired and often threw up after eating. Following surgery four years ago, his quality of life has improved vastly and he is able to focus well on his studies.
His mother Krishmal Somasundram, 49, a housewife, said she and her husband, who works as a labourer, were worried about how they were going to pay for their son’s operation until IJNF came forward to foot the RM45,000 bill.
“We can now breathe freely again as our son’s health is getting much better,” she added.
CONGENITAL HEART DISEASE
Thirteen-month-old Muhammad Syamil Syazwan from Jeli, Kelantan, is another
recipient of IJNF’s benevolence. Born with a hole in the heart, the baby underwent surgery recently at IJN on June 6. The operation’s cost – RM55,000 – was partly met by IJNF, while a government subsidy took care of the rest.
His mother Nuzulsalwana Mohamad, 31, said after her baby was born, a doctor at the hospital in Kota Bahru informed her that her son may have a heart defect as the sound of his heartbeat indicated a leaky valve.
Electrocardiography (ECG) results confirmed that her son had a 14mm hole in his heart, she said, adding that her son’s subsequent monthly ECG reports showed that an operation was absolutely necessary for him.
“He was referred to IJN and three to four months later, the specialist said the operation had to be done immediately because his lungs were at risk of failing.
“It was heart-rending for me and my husband (Md Ipazri Ibrahim) to see our child suffering and I didn’t realise then that surgery was the only option to resolve his (heart) problem… but I’m grateful for the sponsorship because we couldn’t possibly have paid for it as my husband is only an ordinary worker in the kampung,” she told Bernama, when met recently at the children’s ward at IJN where Muhammad Syamil is recuperating after the surgery.
Preethiba, Vinoshen and Muhammad Syamil are among the hundreds of heart patients to whom IJNF had extended a helping hand under its Patient Assistance Programme.
The IJN Foundation, a non-profit organisation, was established in 1995 to execute corporate social responsibility activities on behalf of IJN, and to undertake the development of cardiovascular research and education.
IJNF spends more than RM4 million a year to fund the cost of treatment, heart surgery, heart transplant surgery and purchase of devices for poor and needy patients.
Its manager Ritzzawati Rosli Mohd Rosli said the foundation was funded by contributions from corporations and also individuals.
She said among the companies and organisations involved in sponsoring treatment costs and heart surgeries were Nu Skin Malaysia Sdn Bhd, Malaysian Electronic Payment Systems Sdn Bhd, Bank Rakyat, Yayasan Tenaga Nasional, Berjaya Cares Foundation, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Kiwanis Club of Bukit Kiara, Rotary Club of Damansara and Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre Sdn Bhd/Traders Hotel KL.
According to Ritzzawati Rosli, last year IJNF disbursed RM3.5 million to meet the needs of 124 patients (71 adults and 53 children), and in 2014, RM3.8 million was spent on 125 patients (64 adults and 61 children).
“Initially, only RM1 million was allocated for needy patients but since 2008, a minimum of RM2 million is set aside for this purpose but it all depends on how much funds the foundation is able to collect… the amount changes yearly.
“The total number of patients benefiting from the foundation every year may not seem that high but the total amount of funds required to cover their costs is very high. Each operation usually costs about RM30,000 but it can go up to RM80,000, depending on the patient’s condition and type of surgery,” she said.
Patients either applied for financial assistance on their own or were referred to the foundation by their specialist, said Ritzzawati Rosli, adding that their requests were vetted by IJNF before being approved.
“If they are genuinely in need of help, then the foundation will offer full or partial funding. Since IJN also has its own welfare organisation, it can also offer assistance in the form of a subsidy,” she said.
She added that IJNF needed the support of more corporate entities so that it could assist more needy heart patients and help save their lives. Individuals can also do their part by participating in one of the fundraising activities organised by IJN or the foundation. – BERNAMA