When it comes to heart attacks or heart-related diseases, we mainly hear of men being more susceptible to such cardiovascular diseases (CVD).
But on World Heart Day, which is observed today, September 29, NMC Specialty Hospital in Al Ain and Abu Dhabi shared incidents of two unusual cases of how CVD struck people in, what are assumed as, 'safe groups' – women and children.
Young nurse becomes heart patient
A month ago, when Leena Susan Santhosh, a 39-year-old nurse in the paediatric ward at NMC Speciality Hospital, Al Ain, went to drop off her daughter at nursery before going to work, she felt a heaviness in her chest.
“I started feeling some heaviness in my chest after walking a short distance. Initially, I ignored it thinking of my poor fitness levels, but the pain only increased with time,” she said.
Although she had no diagnosed heart issues, she had diabetes and hypothyroidism. Her parents were also diabetic, and her father had undergone open heart surgery a few years back.
Being in the healthcare sector, Leena decided to get herself checked at her hospital and to her surprise, although her ECG was normal, she had multiple blocks in one of her major heart blood vessels.
Elaborating on the uniqueness of her case, Dr Syed Tanveer, consultant cardiologist at NMC Speciality Hospital, Al Ain, said: “We undertook specialised blood tests – the enzyme markers – troponins and ECG, but expectedly everything came normal."
"However, the pain and chest discomfort continued and rather increased with time. This is when we made her undertake the exercise test or treadmill test, that can give an idea of how well a person's heart works during physical activity. Leena failed the test.”
Dr Austin Mohan Komranchat, head of the department and specialist cardiologist at NMC Speciality Hospital, Al Ain, added: “A typical symptom of exercise induced pain is that it gets better when the patient is at rest. This was a clear sign and symptom of angina."
"But what anguished me was her gender, age and her being a non-smoker. It is a known fact that pre-menopausal females of her age have oestrogen protection and rarely become a coronary heart patient.”
The doctors then conducted an angiography test on her that confirmed multiple blocks in her heart’s major blood vessel — left anterior descending artery, the largest coronary artery supplying blood to two-thirds of the heart.
On September 5, doctors conducted an angioplasty procedure, where they removed three blocks from Leena's vessel by placing two stents to ease the blood flow.
Leena was discharged the next day after the procedure and recuperated and returned to work at the same hospital in just two weeks.
“My advice to young females would be simple – maintain a healthy lifestyle of balanced diet with regular exercise and take preventive annual health check-ups,” said Dr Austin.
8-year-old with congenital heart disease
Marwan Abdullah Suliman Mohamed, an 8-year-old boy from Yemen, was brought to Abu Dhabi in May 2021 under a generous programme by the UAE Government.
It was suspected that he had a heart condition by birth as his growth was stunted and due to the abnormal rhythm of heartbeats that produced ‘not normal’ sounds when checked with a stethoscope.
The child was evaluated by Dr Anas Abu-Hazeem, consultant paediatric cardiologist at NMC Royal Hospital, Abu Dhabi, who said: “Marwan was found to have severe narrowing of the pulmonary valve and a big 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.”
“A plan was put in place to perform balloon dilation of his pulmonary valve and closure of the defect in his heart. (It was done) without open heart surgery but through cardiac catheterisation through a very small needle prick in his thigh,” said Dr Anas.
The child’s heart valve was expanded with a balloon catheter and the heart defect was closed using 15mm device. The child was able to walk the same day and went back home to Yemen a few days later, he said.
Dr Anas credited the success of the procedure to the collaboration of all teams at hospital, explaining that such delicate procedures need a qualified and collaborative team and proper infrastructure.
The hospital claimed Marwan’s procedure as the first of its kind to be performed in the private sector in Abu Dhabi, and since then, many similar cases have been performed in NMC by Dr Anas in collaboration with the cardiac anaesthesia, PICU and catheterisation lab teams.
Marwan’s parents who are fishermen and economically very poor, thanked God, the benevolent UAE leaders, and the doctors at NMC Royal Hospital, Abu Dhabi.
Expressing his happiness on both the cases, Michael Davis, CEO of NMC Healthcare said, “The stories of both Leena and Marwan are heart-warming and important for everyone to hear. We traditionally consider young women and children to be safe from the threat of heart disease. I am thankful for their story of recovery and grateful to our team of doctors, nurses, and technicians at NMC who have made their recovery possible.”
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