Braveheart

How a 93-year-old coped with coronary bypass

happy old man sitting on a bench

Ramniklal Dharia wakes up at 5.30 every morning, goes for a walk with his son, washes his own clothes and does all his chores unassisted. Sounds unimpressive...till you know that he is 94 years old and has undergone a bypass surgery with three grafts in August last year.

"My father has always been an active man. In May 2010, he suffered from chikungunya while he was in our village in Gujarat. We consulted an echo cardiologist, who informed us that my father has suffered a stroke," remembers Chetan Dharia, Ramniklal's son. Ramniklal was admitted in the ICU for five days, after which the doctor suggested further treatment in Mumbai.

Although Ramniklal was active, he had his own bag of ailments. Hypertension, hypothyroidism, a previous appendectomy and hernia repair. However, this was the first time he had heart trouble.

Ramniklal had been complaining of chest pain three months prior to the surgery, which was what prompted his family to consult a cardiologist. His angiography revealed that he had three blockages. "The left main artery of the heart was completely choked with 90 per cent fat deposits. The pumping capacity of his heart had dropped to 25 per cent. Normal capacity is around 35 per cent. Also, his age had made the case more challenging," informs Ramakanta Panda, vice chairman and cardio vascular thoracic surgeon, Asian Heart Institute.

Doctors advised bypass surgery. "My mother, who is 86 years old, was a little scared. But we explained to her that surgery was required," informs Chetan. If he hadn't gone for surgery, Ramniklal's condition could worsen. "Blockages in the left main artery are often fatal if not surgically treated. That's the reason why it has earned the nick name 'widow-maker' artery," informs Panda. At his age, the problem of reduced coping capacity and increased susceptibility to infections are a deterrent.

The family agreed for surgery. Now the question was how would Ramniklal take it. Strangely, Ramniklal was unfazed. He was emotionally strong and was ready to take on the challenge.

So, on 13th August 2010, Ramiklal underwent a CABG [coronary artery bypass graft]. The surgery went without incident. He was in the hospital for eight days, recovering, which too passed without the complications doctors feared. Ramniklal's confidence paid off. With sheer will power not only did he recover fully, but was also back to his regular routine within 15 days. Six months post surgery, and he is as active as before.

What do you mean?

CABG, pronounced cabbage, stands for coronary artery bypass graft. The procedure is advised to patients with significant blockage. It aims to improve the flow of blood and nutrients to the heart by creating new routes around narrowed and blocked arteries.

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