For a child born with Congenital Heart Defects, the future may often seem bleak, but the ‘Little Hearts Program’, launched by Being Human Foundation, in collaboration with Fortis Foundation, is proving to be the light at the end of the tunnel.
Actor, producer and television personality, Salman Khan is one of the most commercially successful actors of his time. His benevolent character and generosity are widely known, and slipping into the role of a philanthropist came as no surprise. In 2007, Being Human, The Salman Khan Foundation was registered, and it delved into the areas of Education and Healthcare for the under privileged. This initiative has been further strengthened by the support of The Hans Foundation, established in 2009 to provide a source of endowment to not for profit organizations in India.
The Little Hearts Program treats underprivileged children who are born with heart defects but cannot afford surgery.
These defects may be of various kinds, such as obstruction of blood flow or abnormal rhythm of the heart, etc… and are known to be the leading causes of birth-defect related deaths.
Launched in January 2013, the Little Hearts Program works with doctors from government hospitals, social workers and primary health care workers, to extend guidance, help and treatment to those in need. The Salman Khan Foundation took up this cause with the help of Fortis Hospitals at their three centres viz Mumbai, Delhi and Jaipur. The Hans Foundation extended further help by sharing 50 per cent of the cost of surgery. This provided a massive boost to the programme which saw the number of cases rising up to 18-20, in the subsequent months.
As a part of the programme, the volunteers and campaign managers play an equally important role in its functioning. They are responsible for establishing a contact with the concerned families and ensure a timely intervention for children aged between 1 to 18 years. Pediatric cardiologists and surgeons from Fortis Hospitals work under this programme and attend various heart camps organised in selected areas across India.
At these camps, the children are checked by specialists to decide on further course of action. The diagnosis is based on the readings of the ECG. Accordingly, doctors and care workers counsel the parents on the medical status of the child, and the recommended surgical course of action necessary. As this programme caters to the underprivileged, the income background of the family is checked. Once the candidates have been selected, they are sent to Fortis Hospital for further check-ups.
About 150 to 200 children attend each camp accompanied with their families for evaluation. Though there is no annual schedule for camps in place, once a camp has been conducted in a particular region, the local doctors contact the foundation accordingly. Gradually, this link is strengthened and a path cleared for future patients to gain access to quality treatment. The foundation focusses on those regions that do not have adequate facilities for pediatric cardiac surgery.
Such camps have been held in places such as Bhagalpur in Bihar, Alwar in Rajasthan, Leh, Kargil and Srinagar, to name a few.
The patient has to come to Fortis Hospital for evaluation before further discussion takes place regarding on surgery. Once the surgery is done, there are two to three follow-up sessions conducted that are free of cost.
The vision of the Program is to reach out to as many underprivileged children as possible, offering them the opportunity to undergo heart surgery. In India, over 2 lakh children every year are born with Congenital Heart Defects. In some way, this initiative is an endeavour to decrease this count and extend help to those who cannot afford the costs of hospitalisation, fees for specialists, etc.
Kashif, an eight-year-old boy who lives in Aligarh, has been deaf and dumb since birth. However, his biggest challenge to live a normal life was his heart defect that prevented him from doing routine activities like any other child of his age. He would often get tired easily and would become blue. Through the programme, Kashif successfully underwent surgery, and his condition dramatically improved.
The 12-year-old son of a labourer, Amar Singh was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect. Once the Little Heart Program brought the issue to notice, his mother single-handed got all the formalities done, and even persuaded Amar’s father to take the child to Gurgaon for treatment. Post operation, a marked improvement has been seen in his working capacity. Previously, the child had marked limitations and now, he goes to school and lives like other regular children.
As published in Spiceroute, the in-flight magazine of SpiceJet, August 2015 issue. You can read the online version here.