Five-month-old Ajit Kumar turned blue about three months back. His parents rushed him to their pediatrician in Gorakhpur who gave prescribed medicines for a month, assuring them it wasn’t anything to worry about and the child would gain his skin tone as he grew older.
But when the child did not respond to medication, his family brought him back to the doctor, who told them to take him to bigger hospitals in Bangalore or Delhi.
So he was brought to the Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) on September 10 and admitted him in an emergency situation.
Doctors discovered the baby was born with a congenital heart disorder.
Ajit was born with reverse connection of his heart, when the great arteries — the aorta and the pulmonary artery — are transposed, creating a situation where the body receives “blue” or unoxygenated blood instead of the “red” or oxygenated blood. It also weakens the heart muscles that pump blood.
The doctors found the baby’s Patent Ductus Arteriosis (PDA), which works during foetal life and enables blood circulation to the lower part of the body had closed, hence providing no provision for oxygenated blood to reach the rest of the body. PDA usually closes within a week in normal babies.
“Most children born with Ajit’s condition die within two months. He was extremely lucky to have survived, despite poor guidance by the local doctors,” said Dr AK Bisoi, associate professor in the department of cardiac surgery.
Dr Krishna Iyer, director of paediatric cardiac surgery at Escorts Heart Institute, said in India, roughly 2,50,000 babies are born with congenital heart disorder every year. This figure, say doctors, is under-reported as heart testing isn’t done for for most births in the country.
“Even in paediatric training, congenital heart disease receives little importance as people don’t want to associate heart problems with infants,” she added.
Dr Iyer said late referrals in congenital heart disease in babies was common as there was very little knowledge, even among doctors.
“For such infants to survive, some mixing of the ‘red’ and ‘blue’ blood must occur, hence stenting helped open the closed PDA,” said Dr Bisoi.
Dr S.S. Kothari, professor and cardiologist at AIIMS, conducted stenting on the baby the same day he was admitted. “With the mixing of the ‘red’ and ‘blue’ blood, the baby was kept alive long enough to enable us to completely repair the defect using the arterial switch operation,” said Dr Bisoi.
Paediatric cardiac surgeons say if such babies are brought in within 24-48 hours of delivery, not only will they live but chances of recovery also improve.