CHENNAI: When Mohammad Arshad was born, he had five days to live. He spent these days in three hospitals and two ambulances.
A month later, on Wednesday, when his parents shared his story here, it was a tale of survival, with drivers and doctors playing heroes battling death that filled the infant's arteries.
Arshad was born in Cuddalore in the first week of November with a congenital condition that caused his heart to pump impure blood into his body. His father, Mohammad Yusuf, said a day after the birth, the infant showed signs of breathlessness.
He was rushed to a private hospital in Puducherry, around 40 minutes away. "By the time we took him there, he had turned blue," said Yusuf.
Doctors immediately put the child on a ventilator. The blue was a give-away. "They knew something was wrong with his heart, but said they did not have the facility to treat him," said Yusuf. The institution alerted a private hospital in Chennai, which mobilised an ambulance.
Five days after he was born, and two hospitalisations later, Arshad was finally operated on.
Dr Prashant Shah, a senior paediatric cardiac surgeon, who led the team at Kanchi Kamakoti CHILDS Trust Hospital, explained Arshad's condition. "The two main arteries from his heart were reversed changing the way blood circulates through the body," said Dr Shah.
Normally, the heart pumps oxygen-poor (blue) blood through the pulmonary artery into the lungs where it receives oxygen. The oxygenated blood returns to the heart through the pulmonary vein on the left side of the heart and from there it is pumped into the blood circulatory system by the body artery (aorta).
In Arshad's case, the position of the aorta and the pulmonary artery emerging from the heart were reversed. Doctors say the condition occurs in 20 infants for every one lakh childbirth.
"We had to do an artery switch procedure, where we cut the arteries and changed their positions," said Dr Shah. The entire procedure took around four hours.
"It was particularly complicated as he was just five days old," the surgeon said.
However, it wasn't the condition or the surgery that made Arshad's story unique. "Such children are usually operated in the same hospital they are born in or an institution they are referred to, to save time. In Arshad's case, three hospitals worked together to help him survive," said Dr Shah.
For Yusuf, just seeing the first tinge of pink on his son's puckered face was hope enough.