Mumbai’s first paediatric heart transplant girl prepares for 12th exams exactly a year after her historic surgery

Sweden D'Souza's father is happy with her recovery. He is also trying hard to manage money for medicines, which cost Rs15,000 per month

Diagnosed with an end-stage heart disease, doctors had told teenager Sweden D’Souza that her survival chances were only up to six months if she did not undergo a transplant surgery.

Sweden D’Souza

While she was inching close to death, on January 2, 2016, Sweden’s desperate prayers were answered when she received a call from Mulund’s Fortis Hospital informing her of operation scheduled the next day.

While last year, Sweden was preparing for her surgery on January 3, today, a year after, she is preparing for Class XII prelims exams.

“On this day last year, she was reborn for us. We have decided to celebrate this day as her birthday,” said Anthony D’Souza, her father, who works as a security guard.

Sweden, now age 18, is city’s first paediatric heart transplant patient. She is also one of the six paediatric heart transplant surgeries that the city has witnessed.

After Sweden was diagnosed in 2015 with Dilated Cardiomyopathy, Anthony said she was home-bound for two months before undergoing the transplant.

“Doctors had given Sweden six months’ time. She needed a transplant. On January 2 last year, our daughter’s life changed when we received a call from the hospital informing us of a heart donation,” said Anthony.

It took her three months to step outside the 10×6-feet air-condition room that was created in their 200 sq ft one-room kitchen flat in Vikhroli.

“I was not allowed to step outside my room for first three months. Later, I was allowed to step out barely for 5-7 minutes, that too, when there were not many people around. I even wrote my Class XI exam from home,” said Sweden.

Sweden is eager to complete her studies at the earliest and start working.

“My parents are doing everything that is possible to give me a good life post heart transplant. So, I want to study hard and make them happy,” said Sweden.

While her father is happy with her recovery and the fact that she has resumed normal life, he said he is trying hard to manage money for her medicines, which cost Rs15,000 per month.

“She will need immunosuppressants (drugs or medicines that lower body’s ability to reject a transplanted organ) for lifelong. They cost around Rs15,000 per month. My monthly salary is Rs16,000 and apart from Sweden, my wife and I have two more kids. For a year, a good Samaritan helped us with medicines,” said Anthony.

Dr Vijay Agarwal, paediatric heart transplant surgeon at Fortis Hospital who was one of the doctors to operate Sweden, said all paediatric heart transplant cases at the hospital, including hers, are doing well and leading a normal life.

“Another important part of any transplant is taking immunosuppressive drugs on time to ensure body does not reject the transplanted organ. We also have a support group which helps parents and patients tide over small problems. Members of the group also motivate patients and share tips on keeping infection at bay,” said Agarwal.