A survivor’s tale: Happy with her heart
A stranger and his family helped Preeti Unhale live at 25 by donating his heart. Today, she counsels the families of donors at the crucial moments when they have to make one of the most important decisions of their lives.Updated: May 17, 2008, 23:36 IST
A stranger and his family helped Preeti Unhale live at 25 by donating his heart. Today, she counsels the families of donors at the crucial moments when they have to make one of the most important decisions of their lives.
She counsels recipients too, giving them hope to look forward to a normal life once again with a healthy heart. “The family of the donor changed my life and I thank them every day. For me, they are like god and my parents. They gave me a new life,” said Unhale, now 32.
Unhale’s world came crashing when she was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy in her early 20s. “No one in my family had a heart problem. Doctors said a bout of viral fever that I had in 1995 had affected my heart muscles, leaving them weakened and diseased,” said Unhale.
For the first 10 months after the viral fever, she had no symptoms. A year later, though, her parents noticed she had difficulty breathing on exertion, complained of chest pain and started to lose weight.
“I was diagnosed with myocarditis caused by viral infections from Coxsackie virus, adenovirus, etc. that reach the heart. I was given medicines and asked not to exert myself, and managed well for a while,” said Unhale.
She got married, but within a couple of years, again developed breathlessness so bad that she could not move from one room to another without sitting down. “We came to AIIMS and I was told I needed a transplant. I was lucky. I found a heart that matched within two months. My transplant was done on January 23, 2003,” she said.
It’s been almost smooth sailing since then. “I developed rejection twice. The first time it was four years after surgery. This surprised the doctors. But that was easily handled with medicines, and now I am healthy and active,” said Unhale.
Other than taking medicines to suppress her immunity along with multi-vitamins and iron tablets each day, Unhale claims life has changed little since the transplant.
“I just have to watch what I eat and drink to lower infection risk, so I always carry filtered water. But I do eat out occasionally, though I didn’t for one whole year after surgery,” she said.