The Girl Who Waited 12 Years for Her Heart to Be Repaired

Photos by Scott Streble


Published May 28, 2020

Six months ago, Mythili (17) from India was so tired that she couldn’t walk or go to school. For 12 long years, she waited for the heart surgery that restored her energy and her dreams for the future. She is preparing to join the 11th grade when her school (closed now due to COVID-19) is reopened. Her surgeon Dr. Raju Vijayakumar (Dr. Vijay) hopes that she will go on to study nursing, then come to work on his cardiac team.

Mythili, her mother Rathinam and their neighbors


Mythili lives in Coimbatore with her parents, brother and grandmother. There is a picture hanging on the wall taken when Mythili was 4. She was a healthy girl with chubby cheeks. Her heart problems were first detected at preschool during a regular check-up. At that point, her parents took her to various doctors and hospitals where the answer was always the same. “Mythili is a high risk to be treated with surgery because the defect was too complex to be fixed. Just go home, no surgery,” remembers her mother Rathinam.

In 2019, Mythili’s pediatrician referred her to Dr. Vijay at GKNM, our partner hospital. “When I saw her I decided to do a full repair, but I was waiting for the right moment, as it was too big and complex surgery for me to do alone at that time. That was big pressure on me. I wanted to help the family, but there were a lot of constraints,” says Dr. Vijay.

Dr. Vijay visiting Mythili and her family


The right moment came soon. Children’s HeartLink medical volunteer Dr. Christopher Baird from Boston Children’s Hospital was in Coimbatore for a training exchange focused on complex surgeries. This presented the ideal opportunity for Mythili. Dr. Vijay operated on Mythili’s heart in November 2019, with Dr. Baird standing beside him and guiding him. “After her surgery, I did a few similar cases on my own,” says Dr. Vijay.

Mythili made the sari her mother is wearing


After feeling worried and helpless for years, Mythili’s parents finally feel relief and gratitude. They are happy to know that Mythili can focus on her studies. As for Mythili, she wants to take the time now to learn tailoring from her mother and recently made her mother a green sari. 

Watch a heart-touching video about Mythili’s transformation and the impact of Children’s HeartLink training:


Read more about our work in India