Heart patient lives a normal and active life

Reshma Wati Kumar. Picture: SUPPLIED

LIVNG a normal and active life as a heart patient at times is difficult, but 44-year-old Reshma Wati Kumar has proved that even with rheumatic heart disease (RHD) you can still have an active life.

For the past 20 years, Ms Kumar has been living with RHD and has undergone heart surgery and has weekly injections.

“It was during my second pregnancy 20 years ago in 1998 that I was diagnosed with RHD. I had gone for my ante-natal clinic and I was told that my heart beat is a little faster and is not normal.

“So I was referred to a cardiac doctor. He did further assessment and tests, including ECG (electrocardiography) and echo. It was after these echo scans that I was diagnosed with RHD,” recalled Ms Kumar.

She was 24 years old at that time and had no idea what the word “rheumatic” even meant when she began to experience symptoms of RHD.

“I thought it had something to do with a cold. With my husband beside me, the doctor gave me a good explanation and told me that the valve of my heart — my mitral valve — was narrowing. I was really shocked and worried too because I was carrying a baby. So I read up everything I could find on RHD on the internet in order to know more about it. I remember having shortness of breath before I was diagnosed and after talking with a health worker about the symptoms, I believed I had rheumatic fever back in high school where I used to have frequent sore throat. So it is possible this disease was with me for a long time but it was not detected.

“In 2005, seven years after being diagnosed with RHD, I began to have symptoms that it has reached a severe stage,” said Ms Kumar.

“I began to have shortness of breath even at rest or while I’m sleeping. I cannot climb up the stairs or sweep the house. I had to have two pillows for sleeping because of the discomfort and sometimes I couldn’t sleep at all.”

Further assessments and examinations were carried out and the doctors recommended that she either have a mitral valve repair or replacement surgery. On October 12, 2005, at the Mercy Hospital in Auckland, New Zealand, Ms Kumar had a mitral valve repair surgery.

“I was also told that I will have to wait for another 10 to 15 years before I will have a replacement. It has now been 13 years and I will be going in two weeks’ time for my review.” However, family support helped her to overcome the challenges that came with RHD.

“My husband was very supportive during the time of my operation and my children, even though they were small, they supported me in any way they could. Just their being around me gave me so much comfort.

“My parents were also there from day one, providing care and looking after my children while I was away for surgery as well as after surgery. My siblings also provided support in many ways. After surgery, most of the complications and discomfort disappeared and my family gave me enough reason not to dwell on my sickness, but to remain strong and continue with life.

That’s important because RHD does not stop someone from being successful in life. You can have RHD and still be successful.”

Ms Kumar recovered quickly with the support of her family.

“I was actually back at work four months after my surgery and everything carried on as normal.”

“I was going to parties, picnics, I did gardening and I was reminded to walk at least half an hour each day. “I attend post-operation care clinics at CWM, usually after every three or four months and I never miss my monthly benza injection at the Raiwaqa Health Centre,” she said.

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