The surgical love

One woman’s touching and riveting tale of the ground-breaking procedure her child almost went through

“I’m so sorry I haven’t come back to see you in months,” Fionna told me with a weary look on her face. “My back is doing much better with the physiotherapy, but the pain going down the leg is worse,” she drew a line with her little finger to explain where her sciatica spread. “What have you been doing recently that’s aggravating it?” I asked to identify some triggers, like therapists do. “I’ve had the most physically and emotionally draining 12 weeks of my life,” her eyes welled up. I handed her a tissue and asked if she’d like to talk about it.

“It’s my daughter Zoey.” she began. “She’s 10 years old and the love of my life. She’s curious, intelligent, kind, and has the gentlest heart,” she described. When someone starts with a description like that, it immediately tells me that Zoey’s facing something she doesn’t deserve. “I noticed a little discoloration on her belly and also found a small lump, measuring around 2 cm,” Fionna said, sizing it up with her index finger and thumb. They waited a week, but as it didn’t go, they took her to a skin doctor. “This will have to come out, but we’ll have to do it under general anaesthesia,” he told them, concerned that it could be a malignancy. “It’s rough and firm and doesn’t look like something we can ignore,” he cautioned. He asked for a bunch of tests that are routinely performed before an operation and scheduled surgery within a few days.

“The ECG and 2D echo showed up a cardiac anomaly in Zoey,” she continued. “She was diagnosed with a degenerative mitral valve, where the heart valve thickens and prolapses and doesn’t close properly, causing it to leak,” she explained. “But this doesn’t happen in kids,” I stated. “That’s what I thought too,” Fionna retorted, “but the doctors say there is a variety that affects the young; it’s super rare and it needed to be fixed at the earliest.” The family was shocked that their happy-go-lucky, always ready for an adventure, full of energy, merrily running up and down the stairs 5 times a day child could have heart disease requiring major surgery. “She had absolutely no symptoms,” Fionna said in utter disbelief. A consultation with the cardiologist ascertained that without surgery, there would be a certain decline in her heart health, affecting quality and longevity of life. The procedure involved fitting a custom-made clip device in the apex of the affected heart. “However, the surgeon had only performed this procedure aboard, as the technology was just a year old and hadn’t come to India yet,” she explained, adding layers to her story to which I was completely glued.

“And in all this drama of getting tests and consultations, the lump on her belly completely disappeared!” she exclaimed. “I don’t know if this was providence or the devil in disguise, to be honest,” she confided. “But you couldn’t escape the heart condition?” I asked, eager to know if they had decided to go ahead with surgery for the little one. “She was put on oral heart medication until the doctor ordered the custom-made clip from Shanghai, as they planned to operate in this way in India for the first time,” she continued with a story that was getting more complex. While waiting the four weeks for the clip to arrive, Fionna told me that her heart and mind were riddled with a multitude of thoughts on whether they were doing the right thing for Zoey, whereas Zoey was blissfully unaware of what was going on. The entire family was sombre and anxious. “I held her closer as she slept, woke up several times at night to just watch her, putting my hand on her little heart, and kissed her and cuddled her even more than usual. We took her for late-night car drives and gave her her favourite scoop of ice cream more often. And I prayed… prayed hard and from my heart,” she gestured with hands folded. I was beginning to guess that the story was going to have a happy ending.

“On the day of the operation, with all our hearts weighing a tonne, Zoey was wheeled into the operating room,” she told me. The surgeon said it would take three hours and smiled to reassure us, saying that it would be perfect. “Get out of here, have some breakfast, and come back,” he told us. “But I stayed glued to the chair outside the OR,” she said. “Two hours passed, three hours passed, then four hours, and my heart was beginning to tremble. Just then, the doctor burst into the waiting area,” she said with a quiver in her voice. “He pulled down his surgical mask and I could see his lips pursed tightly into a frown. Softly, he said, ‘We were about to implant the clip when Zoey’s blood pressure plummeted to dangerous levels. Her oxygen saturation also dropped to 64. We tried to stabilize her as best we could, and the levels would rise but only to crash once again. We decided that under the circumstances, to continue with the procedure would mean putting her life in jeopardy. We aborted the procedure and have closed her up. We are doing all we can to stabilize her, but she is critical,” he breathed out deeply.

Fionna said she sat outside with her sister and children, their hands entwined in each other’s, saying the Lord’s prayer like a litany. “He came out again after what seemed like an eternity to tell us that Zoey was stable. She would be on a ventilator overnight, and they hoped to remove the breathing tube the next morning. When she came out of the operating theatre and was wheeled into the ICU, she had pipes and wires sticking out everywhere,” she spoke of the experience. “However, with the grace of God, over the next few days she was discharged from the hospital, alive and well,” she breathed.

Fionna acknowledged that while the surgery would have set a record since it was the first one of its kind to be performed in India, the doctors showed courage and compassion to take the call to abort it.

“What about the heart now?” I was curious. “She has to be on cardiac medication for life. If she develops symptoms, we might have to try out the procedure again, later, the doctors told us.” The things parents have to go through for their children, I thought.

“Perhaps now that everything’s well, you guys can take a short summer vacation before she starts school again,” I suggested. “School? What school?” she looked at me perplexed. “Zoey’s my beloved 10-year-old black and tan dachshund!” she exclaimed.

This time, it felt like my mitral valve had suddenly prolapsed.


24 Comments on “The surgical love
  • Supriya Correa says:

    For the many times that you’ve been more mother than neurosurgeon.
    Happy Mother’s Day Maaz.

  • Bikram says:

    Expecting the word “Brain”!!!
    The search continued till the end …
    Brain overcomes by love …

  • Connie says:

    😅 😅……,The things we do for love………Thanxs Doc….,,a perfect piece for Mothers Day😊😊😊

  • Nawaz Vijayakumar says:

    Wow! You really took us on a roller coaster ride. And the finale was classic! Happy Birthday and Happy Mother’s Day to all the lovely ladies in your life.

  • Chandan Sanjana says:

    This was one of the most emotional write ups of yours I have read. I do not know why but from the start tears kept trickling from my eyes. The anxiety of something being really wrong with her child and the fear of loosing her. God give them all the strength to go on with life as best as they can for their daughters sake. I know what it could mean to loose a child and I hope that they find a solution so that the child can regain her normal color and be able to get back to school and lead the happy life she was used too.
    This truly is a lesson for us to embrace life and be thankful for everything we have. 🙏🙏

  • Arun Pushkarna says:

    Once more you held me in a trance Mazda.
    Not having a pet of my own, I cannot honestly claim to have the same understanding and emotions that Fiona did. But one hell of a read!!
    Bless you Mazda!

  • Natwar Panchal says:

    No words Dr. 🙏🙏.

  • Laina Emmanuel says:

    Haha loved it

  • Vispi mistry says:

    Mazda this story of your was of Hitchcockian proportions u almist killed me with the edge of the seat suspense.
    So well written

  • T George Koshy says:

    Loved it

  • Usha Shah says:

    Superb. So beautifully written as always, also so apt for Mother’s Day !

  • Rita singh says:

    Gosh such suspense till the very end. I can’t imagine having this kind of feeling for a pet. The way the narration unfolds who could imagine all the fuss for a dog! Anyway ur writing genius has again left ur readers gaping!!.

  • Hutoxi Doodhwala says:

    Very nice piece Mazda !

  • Sushma Sowraj says:

    Wow, what a rollercoaster of emotions you’ve shared Sir…. As always your storytelling is incredibly vivid and touching. Especially the way you’ve woven together the complexity of love, care, fear, and hope is truly remarkable. It felt like I was right there with you and Zoey every step of the way. Keep writing and sharing your inspiring journey—it’s a testament to the power of love and resilience.

  • Zarin Bahmani says:

    That little doodle had a clue but i soon forgot it and was held spell bound till the happy ending! Imagine going to Shanghai to get the valve! But then pets are surely a part of the family!

  • Salima H Ebrahim says:

    What a lovely piece.. DOC you are certainly a man of many talents.

  • Pratima Shrivastav says:

    Ha ha….what a closing sentence. Never doubt the love of a mother.

  • Burzin Panthaki says:

    Lovely piece.
    You are the Alfred Hitchcock and Robin Cook of the new Era.
    Happy birthday and happy mother’s day too

  • Setu Ram says:

    This vignette warmed the cockles of my heart !!

  • Kersi Naushir Daruvala says:

    Lovely piece warm hearts, but somebody pull the rug below my feet. Happy Mother’s day.

  • Love energy | Wrisources: Your writing resource says:

    […] The first thing I read that day was the piece by Dr Mazda Turel, the inimitable surgeon-scribe. Let me spare you the spoilers save one: you are sure to appreciate the O Henry twist at the end. Find “The surgical love” on his website. […]

  • Dr Radha Chowgule says:

    Ooooh , how I love happy endings !
    Lovely lovely story
    Thankyou Dr Mazda !

  • Cyrus Gandhi says:

    Very nice article, Dr. Mazda.


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