CHENNAI: A few hours before we met, we sent Ambily Fathima a whatsapp text that read, “Stay happy”. In hindsight, we needn’t have bothered. You’d scarcely find a girl who’s as hopped up on happiness and good cheer as 22-year-old Ambily; let alone one who is in desperate need of a heart-and-lung transplant to have a decent shot at happily-ever-after.
Having just finished her M Com finals at CMS College, Kottayam, Ambily and her need for an expensive transplant shot into limelight after local media made an appeal on her behalf, in Kerala. “Suddenly, there were people from the Gulf and the UK and all kinds of places calling me and urging me to be brave. I told them I was fine but most didn’t believe me,” she laughs, while perched on a bed at the Apollo Hospital on Greams Road here.
Registered for a heart-and-lung transplant last week, her family had no hope that they’d make it here until a couple of months ago. “I am a poor man,” says her father Basheer Hassan, when he walks into the ward. The lithe girl’s already wide smile turns even wider as she lunges for the bag in his hand and hurriedly unpacks a small packet of Bournvita. “They are making me take my medicines with milk and I hate it,” she tells us. “So I sweet talked him into getting it!”
Hassan says, “There were hospitals that offered to do the surgery in Kerala. But when we learnt that it would cost Rs 40 lakh, we knew we could never afford it.” However, her friends and college mates made it possible by generating the required money.
Gazing at her fondly, Hassan, who works as a private land surveyor in Kottayam, says, “We had known she had a hole in her heart since she was two, but we hoped we could handle when she was older. There were hospitals that offered to do the operation in Kerala, but they didn’t have a licence and when we learnt that it would cost Rs 40 lakh, and we knew we could never afford it.”
And then, people started recommending them come to Apollo because of the record they’ve had with such twin-transplant. Cornered, they needed a miracle. “My college mates and friends started talking to hundreds of others and they began sending money into an account in my name,” explains Ambily. By and by, the account began accumulating money until the seven-figure amount didn’t seem insurmountable any more.
That’s when they packed their bags and headed to Chennai. “They have been running test after test on me, but the nurses here are very nice,” Ambily gives them her stamp of approval.
Beneath all the smiling though, her surgeons have been worried about the state of her lungs. “I kept telling the doctors that I am fine, but yesterday they finally told me that I needed to breathe oxygen from the machine because my O2 level was low,” she says grumpily. “But as you can see I’m perfectly fine today.”
Hassan, meanwhile, is contemplating all things that have to be done to keep his family afloat . “We may need to rent a house outside to stay till we get an organ. All these years, I wondered if we would be able to save her, but having seen how good people have been and the positivity that she has at this young age, I’m filled with strength,” he says.