HAVING battled poor health and sickness from a young age, Sushmita Prasad was not completely caught off-guard when doctors told her she had a 10 per cent chance to live after suffering heart-related illnesses.
About three years on, the 20-year-old is living a full and content life alongside her family and hopes to join the education field.
Life wasn't always easy and Sushmita recalls how difficult it was to leave school to receive surgery.
"When I was born, I was very sickly so when my parents took me to the hospital, the doctors informed them I had a hole in my heart," she said.
"I remember, I was 10 when a group of doctors came from India so they told me the hole had been covered but there was a leakage from the heart valves which was abnormal.
"They told me I would be fine and there was a possibility of me needing an operation but only when I was about 30 years or so."
This assessment proved to be wrong when Sushmita began experiencing chest pain when she was 17.
Numerous trips to the hospital failed to alleviate the pain, Sushmita recalled.
"When I used to go to the hospital, they used to give me an injection and send me home so after further tests, I found out the heart valves had started gathering pus.
"I was admitted in hospital for six weeks and they tried to treat me.
"The doctors then informed me I would have to go to either India or Australia to get treated.
"India was cheaper so my family pitched in to help and we also got assistance from the Ministry of Health."
It was here that medical personnel informed her of the minimal chances of survival should she choose to undergo the operation.
The dire prognosis was made after Sushmita had a stroke prior to her treatment.
"When they told us about the low chances of survival, my mum didn't want to sign the operation papers but I told her to sign. I said, if I am destined to die, I will and if I am to live, I'll live.
"So she signed and I underwent the operation. The doctor then told my mum the operation was successful."
Shortly after returning from her operation, Sushmita says she was diagnosed with a sore throat — one of the most common distinguishing symptoms of rheumatic heart disease.
It was then that doctors referred her to nurses working with Cure Kids Fiji and she started receiving benzathine penicillin injections, something which has helped her health tremendously.
In spite of all the challenges, Sushmita says not being able to complete her high school studies remains one of her biggest regrets to date.
"I was in Form Five when I went for treatment and I was not accepted back as they told me to repeat the previous year.
"I did a basic computing course and vocational studies after that. I stayed at home for a while and now I am preparing to go back to school. I want to take up an early childhood education course later this year."
She says other young people in her shoes needed to remain strong if they were faced with such adversities.
"Don't be scared. You will heal and it will take time but you should never lose hope."