Privilege and Joy of Giving: A Journey from the ICU to Recovery

Kahlil GibranI slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy.

Kriti with a baby at the hospital. (Photo: The Quint)

Giving. It’s a word made banal by cause marketing campaigns subverting the concept in the process of tugging at heart-strings to pull at purse strings.

Giving. It’s a concept whose depth, impact and sheer privilege I realised when I visited the paediatric cardiology wing of Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre, Kochi, as a volunteer at Genesis Foundation (GF).

The Foundation’s mission is to facilitate medical treatment for critically ill under-privileged children with heart disorders. And at Amrita, this mission is truly coming alive as a result of a beautiful coming together of the efforts of the Foundation, the good wishes and financial support of the donors and the remarkable dedication and excellence of everyone at the hospital.

Nearly 220,000 children are born in India every year with heart disorders – the largest number in the world! A shocking 90 percent of these children are unable to get timely life-saving attention – which leads to either premature death or a lifelong hindrance in their well-being. There are only around 50 hospitals in the country with paediatric cardiology as a specialty.

Amrita, under the able guidance of Dr Krishna Kumar, is one of them. A hospital where they don’t just treat under-privileged children, but also do extensive research so that paediatric cardiology gets better and is accessible to many more children.

Kids’ drawings in Paediatric Cardiology. (Photo: The Quint)

I have visited hospitals before, of course, but the vibe at Amrita – of service, commitment, and thoroughness in everything – is something that hit me immediately.

Genesis Foundation facilitates the treatment at the hospital of under-privileged children whose family income is less than Rs 10,000 a month. So even at first glimpse, it was overwhelming to see a ward full of people – the critical children, mostly babies, and their parents – who have been through seemingly insurmountable challenges, but who have finally found the support and the treatment they’ve needed.

The unassuming Dr R Krishna Kumar, Head of Paediatric Cardiology, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre, Kochi. (Photo: The Quint)

Let me take you through some of the journeys we came across.

Baby of Surekha Prasad, a labourer, this little child was brought in from Trichur at the age of two days, when the referring doctor noticed blue discolouration and breathlessness. The child was operated upon when it was four days old. (Photo: The Quint)
An unnamed baby, a rickshaw driver’s son, was operated upon when he was just three days old. (Photo: The Quint)

What the visit brought home to me and other volunteers was that when we think of ‘giving’ we consider ourselves the ‘giver’ and the beneficiary the ‘receiver’. What we miss completely is the sheer joy and a surreal sense of purpose when we see the impact our action has.

Abraham, miracle baby to his parents, was born after seven years of marriage through IVF. He had to go through complicated surgery for truncus arterious on February 15 and was discharged recently. (Photo: The Quint)
Rishik, one year old, was operated upon at 10 months. Parents are from Calicut; father is a mason. (Photo: The Quint)
Darshini, the mischievous little girl pictured above, is a year old. She was operated for VSD at 11 months. Her father is a clerk in a school, in Madhurai. (Photo: The Quint)
This baby boy, born to Yogita, came to Amrita Institute in an extremely critical condition. He was brought from Maharashtra, 1700 kms away, in a taxi. He was operated on for transposition of the great arteries. (Photo: The Quint)
Aswathy’s baby had barely opened her eyes to the world – when she was detected with heart disorder. On her second day, she was operated on for an arterial switch. This tiny life is now 23 days old – the first child of a whitewashing labourer in Trichur. (Photo: The Quint)

This visit made me look at my own reality, my life, my family and my work with a different perspective. And it made me realise that having the opportunity to get perspective was a privilege. Who was the ‘giver’ now!

(Kriti Makhija is a Volunteer, Genesis Foundation and Chief Financial & Compliance Officer, Genesis Burson-Marsteller)