The three-year-old shook her head as Puspita offered her some water. She then
followed Nuri, her six-year-old sister, to the village play area.
later, Nuri ran back. "Ma'ma, Ma'ma, Peni threw up," she announced.
Puspita fetched her younger daughter back home. "I think she is getting a
cold," she comforted the anxious Nuri.
The next day, Peni refused all food, solid or liquid, and continued to vomit.
Her cheeks became pale and her breathing was labored. her condition terrified
Puspita. At her wit's end, she called for a becak and rushed the
little girl on the cycle rickshaw to the nearest clinic, leaving the petrified
Nuri in a neighbor's care. The doctor on duty diagnosed gastro-intestinal
infection and had Peni admitted for observation.
By the next morning, her skin turned greenish-white and her face swelled up.
Mother and daughter were ferried by helicopter to the city hospital. The
pediatrician there diagnosed pneumonia and put the child on a feed drip and
antibiotics. By that night, Peni swelled up like a balloon and fell into a near
Several scans and tests later, the doctors broke the heart-wrenching news.
Peni was suffering from a rare heart diseases and needed a new heart, without
which, she would probably survive for only six months. While waiting for more
tests to be done, Peni's condition deteriorated but a transplant could not be
carried out immediately. The donor heart had to be similar in size and match her
blood group. The hospital issued an international request.
Two weeks later, Peni's eyeballs rolled back and the 'beep' from her bedside
monitor ceased. "My baby ! My baby !" Puspita hollered as the heart machine
emitted a continuous shrill. The luminous green light was flat. Cardiac arrest !
the night nurse alerted the doctor but by the time Dr Thompson arrived, Peni's
face had turned blue.
"Quick, the defibrillator !" the doctor yelled as she tore open the girl's
hospital clothes and thumped her frail chest. A nurse gave the doctor two
electrode pads which she applied to Peni's chest. A burst of current made the
little body jerk like a puppet. "Come on, Peni, breathe !" Dr Thompson shouted
as another shock jolted the limp body. The toddler's heart was beating again.
Half an hour later, Peni had another heart attack ! Dr Thompson revived her,
only to lose her again two hours later, and once more in the following two
hours. Finally, Peni's pulse settled back to normal. The doctor dabbed her
forehead on her coat sleeve. It had indeed been a long, tiring and trying night.
"How long would the reprieve last ?" Dr
Thompson wondered. Deep down in her heart, she knew that I was now a question of
days, not months ! A new top-priority, international emergency request was sent