Heart diseases running in family inspire medical student

The Chronicle

Flora Fadzai Sibanda, Chronicle Reporter
HEART DIASEASES are hereditary in Mr Ntandoyenkosi Banda’s family as both his grandparents and an aunt succumbed to heart conditions and the medical student has been suffering from a heart ailment for the past 12 years.

After it was discovered at a late stage that his grandparents had an underlying condition, Mr Banda (23) of Nketa suburb decided to study medicine at a local university as he felt that if there had been a medical doctor in the family, his loved ones would not have suffered as much as they did.
When he was 11, it was discovered that he had a heart problem similar to that which claimed the lives of his grandparents.
Two of his aunts were also diagnosed with heart ailments and one of them has since died.

As the world today commemorates International Heart Day, a day commemorated every year on September 29, Mr Banda, is grappling with the fear of passing the condition to his children when he gets married.

“Both my grandparents died from heart attacks that had been caused by an underlying mitral valve prolapse. Two of my aunts got it and l now also have it,” he said.

Mitral valve prolapse is a condition in which the valve flaps of the mitral valve (a valve between the upper and lower chambers) do not close smoothly, instead tend to bulge (prolapse) upward into the left atrium during contraction.

“I have been taking medication for the past 12 years. This has helped me to manage the condition and keep it under control,” said Mr Banda.

“I sometimes get worried that I might also die. I am even scared to have my own children as I get worried that they might get a more serious condition unlike mine.”

He said sometimes the condition affects his studies.
“At times I just instantly get sick whilst I am at school or at work. This causes problems for me as it means I would have to leave work and classes at mid-day,” said Mr Banda.

He said International Heart Day means a lot to him as it is a way of celebrating all hearts that are beating in the world.
“So, commemorating this day with the world means all hearts including those that are fine understand each other and come together to be strong for each other. It takes a heart to understand another heart,” said Mr Banda.

Another heart patient, Mrs Sazini Ndlovu (48) from Cowdray Park suburb said she was the first to be diagnosed with the condition in her family.

She has been living with the condition for the past 6 years.
“I could not believe that I had a heart problem. At first it was difficult for me to take my medication as I thought there was no way I could have been the first one to get it in my family,” said Mrs Ndlovu.

She said doctors explained to her that a heart problem can affect anyone.
“It takes a lot of courage for a person to accept that they have a heart condition. For me to fully accept it, I collapsed and was rushed to a hospital,” she said.
Mrs Ndlovu said when she got to the hospital other problems were detected.

She said her blood was not flowing properly to her fingers and toes, explaining the pain she was constantly feeling in her hands.
She said she no longer travels to South Africa to buy goods that she used to sell to make a living.

“Heart conditions come with a lot of challenges. You end up developing other diseases that you never thought you would get. My heart has an unusual pulse so I am always tired and I am not able to do much work,” she said.

“I used to sell goods that I bought from South Africa. Ever since I was diagnosed, my doctor banned me from traveling saying it was not safe for me to travel long distances.”

Mrs Ndlovu said a local organisation, ZimHeart Trust at times helps her with medication when she does not have money to buy it.

“I wish heart related medication could be free just like other chronic disease medication at hospitals. The medication is already expensive, so it would be nice if this day was dedicated to generate funds so that all heart patients can get free medication,” said Mrs Ndlovu.
Sebastian Stebleski (17) had his first surgery at seven months.

His mother, Ms Mellisa Stebleski said her son was diagnosed with a heart condition, Tricuspid atresia when he was three months old.

Some people are born without an important part of the heart called “the tricuspid valve.” This valve plays a part in the heart’s essential function, which is to pump blood between the lungs and body.

“He used to cry till he would turn purple so l took him to a local government hospital. That is where we were told he has Tricuspid Atresia,” Ms Stebleski told Chronicle in an interview at her home in Sauerstown suburb. She said her son had his first surgery when he was just seven months old as doctors in South Africa put a shunt in his heart.

“I was told my son had a hole on his heart that was about 5 mm. The doctors added a shunt in his heart that was expected to act as a valve since his original valves were not working properly,” said Ms Stebleski.

She said her son had another surgery when he was five years old as another hole was discovered.

She said he has been stable since the last surgery was performed and they are preparing for another one in November which is expected to manage his condition.

“Living with a child who has a heart condition can be very expensive. I spend something like US$2 000 just to go for a checkup in South Africa.

She said her son has stunted growth.

Ms Stebleski, who is also a school owner and teacher, said her son is home schooled as he easily gets tired.

“I have my own school so l am a qualified teacher. Because of his condition, l decided to home school my son. He easily gets tired and is not able to do any strenuous work. I was scared he would not manage at public schools,” she said.

Zimbabwe Heart Trust Funder (ZimHeart Trust) founder Mr Farai Chirikure said he had a heart surgery done in India in 2014 and a valve was replaced and another repaired.
He said his trust does not have donors but there are well-wishers who sometimes volunteer to buy medication for those who can not afford it.

“This is the reason why I decided to be an advocate. Awareness about heart conditions should also be done so that stigmatisation at workplaces and schools is reduced,” he said. – @flora_sibanda

Article Source: The Chronicle

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