Dubai: Heart problems can strike anyone, at any age and anytime. Driving home this point ahead of World Heart Day on September 29, doctors at the NMC Specialty Hospital in Al Ain and Abu Dhabi shared two unlikely cases where vigilance and quick action helped save two young lives.
Nurse, 39, as unlikely patient
Leena Susan Santhosh, a 39-year-old a nurse in the paediatric ward of the NMC Specialty Hospital, Al Ain, was planning to celebrate her daughter’s second birthday whilst her husband and son were stranded in India owing to the lockdown in August this year.
She had no diagnosed heart issues but was a patient of diabetes and hypothyroidism. One morning as Santhosh was going to drop her daughter to the baby-sitter, before her duty hours, as was her usual routine, she felt a heaviness in her chest.
“I experienced this feeling after walking a certain distance to drop off my child to the baby sitter shortly before 9am. Initially, I ignored it, attributing it to my poor fitness level.”
However, when Santhosh’s discomfort continued for some time as she was carrying her child in her arms, she considered seeing a physician. “Being in health care, I knew that one of the typical symptoms of a heart condition is experiencing pain while exerting or exercising. It was a clear sign of angina.”
Her case perplexed the doctors. Dr Austin Mohan Komaranchat, head of the department of cardiology and specialist interventional cardiologist at the hospital, who attended on her, said, “What anguished me was her gender, age and her being a non-smoker. It is a known fact that premenopausal females of her age have estrogen protection and rarely become a coronary heart patient.”
Confirming the uniqueness of her case, Dr Syed Tanveer, consultant cardiologist, said, “We undertook specialised blood tests – the enzyme markers – troponins, and ECG but expectedly, everything came normal.”
However, the cardiologists recommended further investigations as her pain and discomfort persisted. Dr Tanveersaid: “In fact her pain increased by the day and finally, when she could not complete the tread mill test, an angiography – the gold standard in diagnosing a coronary heart disease -- was ordered. Shockingly, the test confirmed multiple blocks in the largest coronary artery supplying blood to two thirds of the heart.”
Santhosh underwent an angioplasty on September 5, and was treated for three blocks. Two stents (mesh-like structures) were placed to allow an easy blood flow.
Discharged the next day, Santhosh bounced back to good health in no time. She was able to resume her duty at the paediatric ward within two weeks. She told Gulf News, “I am grateful to my colleagues and friends at work who looked after my daughter and helped me completely recover.”
Takeaway from the case: As Dr Komaranchat said: “My advice to women is no matter what your age is, do not ignore signs of heaviness or pain in the chest. Maintain a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and regular exercise and take preventive annual health check-ups.”
Eight-year-old boy’s turnaround
Marwan Abdulla Soliman Mohammad, an eight-year old boy from Sukatra, Yemen, son of a fisherman, was brought to doctors at the NMC Royal Hospital, Abu Dhabi in April 2021, with complaints of stunted growth. The referral was done under a generous programme by the UAE Government, as his parents were unable to afford any medical intervention.
Marwan was suspected to have a congenital heart condition. Upon examination in Yemen, doctors detected abnormal sounds coming from the region of his chest.
The child underwent medical evaluation under Dr Anas Abu-Hazeem, consultant paediatric cardiologist at the NMC Royal Hospital, Abu Dhabi. He said: “Marwan was found to have a severe narrowing of the pulmonary valve. He also had a major defect between the two atria (receiving chambers) of his heart – a congenital heart condition, rendering the mixing of pure and impure blood, thereby leaving less and less nutrition to reach the child’s body for the normal growth to take place.”
The case was discussed with a multi-disciplinary team. “A plan was put in place to perform balloon dilation of his pulmonary valve and closure of the defect in his heart without open heart surgery but through cardiac catheterisation through a very small needle prick in his thigh,” said Dr Abu-Hazeem.
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The child underwent surgery on May 16. His heart valve was expanded with a balloon catheter and the heart defect was closed using a 15 mm device. He was able to walk the same day and went back home a few days later.
Takeaway from the case: Regular check-ups are necessary even with children, irrespective of whether the symptoms are classic or not.