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Pak girl to repair heart in India

M D Riti in Bangalore | July 15, 2003 01:10 IST

Two-year-old Noor Fathima is definitely a scene-stealer. Ask those who came across her in the Narayana Hrudayalaya (hospital for cardiac problems) in Bangalore.

If each smile that came her way could have plugged the holes in her little heart, she would no longer have needed the surgery she is in India for.

Ventricular septal defect with pulmonary stenosis is how her condition would be described in medical terminology.

In layman's language, this means that she was born with several holes in her heart. There is also obstruction to the blood flow to her lungs.

The toddler was the cynosure of all eyes when the bus from Lahore to Delhi made its maiden journey on July 11.

There could not be a better argument than Noor's story in support of the case for the resumption of road and rail links between Pakistan and India.

In Lahore, she was under the care of Dr Masood Sadiq, who advised cardiac surgery to remedy her condition.

Dr Sadiq's brother, a nephrologist in the US, suggested India as the cheapest, closest and most reliable place to get it done.

She came on accompanied by her parents Nadeem and Tayuba Sajjad while her older siblings, brother Tehsin (6) and sister Mahrukh (4), were left in the care of grandparents.

Nadeem is a marketing executive in Lahore and Noor is his third child.

"Its not that we could not have had this operation done in Pakistan," explains Nadeem.

"It was just that doing it in India, even given the extra costs - travel and lodging for several weeks - proved to be cheaper."

The newly opened road link made it possible for the little girl to reach her doctor in Bangalore quickly and in a cost-effective manner.

"Also, doctors here are accustomed to performing such surgery. One feels the quality of their treatment would be far higher," Nadeem said.

The shorthaired Tayuba nods in agreement, her eyes on her little girl, who smiles cheerfully, oblivious to the major surgery she will shortly undergo at the Narayana Hrudayalaya, a hi-tech heart hospital set up a couple of years ago by leading surgeon Dr Devi Prasad Shetty.

Dr Rajesh Sharma, 43, a senior consultant for cardiac surgery, is handling her case.

The Sajjads arrived in Delhi on Friday evening.

They reached Bangalore the next day and were touched by the reception they received from the hospital staff.

On Sunday, Noor stoically endured a range of medical tests.

"This operation should cost us about Rs 300,000," says Nadeem.

They have come prepared to stay in India, if necessary, for up to three months as they want to make sure that Noor is completely cured before they take her back. They have, after all, waited long enough to bring her here.

"I have complete faith in the capabilities of the doctors here," says Nadeem, looking a little emotional as he looks at his little daughter.

Narayana Hrudayalaya is quite used to getting patients from Pakistan. The trend began when Dr Sharma shifted to Bangalore from Delhi two years ago.

Before that, he had operated on about 50 Pakistani children at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi.

Word about his expertise had spread and people in Pakistan were not daunted by his shift down south.

Dr Sharma mostly communicates with his Pakistani patients by e-mail. After he decides when he can operate on them, they begin applying for Indian visas.

"They do have excellent doctors in Pakistan, but they have not been doing much of this kind of surgery on children there," says Dr Sharma.

"So most such patients come to India, which is a cheaper option than going to the US. Patients had to come via the Middle East after the bus service was stopped. Hence, many of my patients have expressed happiness at the resumption of the bus service."

Narayana Hrudayalaya Institute of Medical Sciences is located on the outskirts of Bangalore, and its telephone number is 7835000

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