Feb 1, 2009
One cannot leave this world unless there is a call from the Almighty. This has been proved true in the case of many people who escape death by a hair’s breadth. The story of Ivan Martis, a Mangalorean, is one such example. Ivan lost all hope in life, but never lost faith in himself, and the Almighty.
Ivan who lost his heart and now lives with a mechanical heart, shares his story with Wilson Saldanha, Daijiworld’s Kuwait chief. His courage and determination is an inspiration to many and is proof that sheer will power and luck, along with some money, can give new hope to life.
Forty-five-year-old Edwin Ivan Martis, known as ‘Ivan’ to his friends is also well-known as ‘Irel and Ines’ father’ owing to his two talented daughters. He works for BKME (Bank of Kuwait & Middle East) in Kuwait and hails from Shirva. A jovial, fun-loving family man, Ivan leads a happy life with his wife Irene who is a nurse in Ahmedi Hospital and two talented daughters Irel and Ines studying in 7th and 4th standards.
On May 25, 2008, their life took a sudden twist after Ivan suffered a heart attack. He was immediately taken to Farwaniya Hospital and from there he was shifted to Chest Hospital for further treatment. He had three blocks in his heart—one had 80 percent blockage and the others were 60 to 70 percent each. He had an angioplasty for one block and returned home on June 15, 2008.
After returning home, he suffered a pulmonary edema which caused breathing problems due to the collection of fluid in the lungs. Once again, he was admitted to Farwaniya Hospital on June 29, 2008. They discharged him on July 20, 2008, suggesting he have surgery and be fitted with a pacemaker which is a small, battery-operated device that helps the heart beat regularly and at an appropriate rate.
It was a bad time for Ivan’s family as his situation was critical. Irene couldn’t get leave from work and she could not risk her job as she had to support her family. At the same time, the treatment could not be delayed as Ivan’s condition was critical. That is when Ivan’s sister Sharlet, who is a nurse in Saudi Arabia, came to help Ivan. They decided to take him to ‘Narayana Hrudayalaya’ in Bangalore.
Accompanied by his daughters, Ivan set off on his journey to Shirva from Kuwait on July 25, 2008, and reached the next day. As his condition was serious, he traveled on a wheel chair with the help of a neighbour from Udupi. The emotions that Irene experienced at the time were beyond anyone’s imagination.
The only thing she could do was pray and give courage to her husband. No one saw her crying alone behind closed doors after Ivan left for India. But Ivan was confident of his recovery and believed that God would not call him so soon. This confidence helped him tolerate all the pain and to take decisions on his future treatment.
On July 28, 2008, Sharlet joined him in Shirva and took him to Bangalore. During his two-day stay in his hometown, many suggested that he go to some hospital in Manipal or Mangalore. Ivan refused as he was confident about the treatment at Narayana Hrudayalaya. No one believed that Ivan would live for two days to reach Bangalore safely. From Bangalore Airport, he was transferred to the hospital in an ambulance.
As Ivan’s relative Jacob Martis from Thirthahalli was operated in the same hospital, they knew Ananth Moorthi, the accounts manager of the hospital who was also was incidentally from same place. He provided all possible assistance to Ivan in completing all the formalities as quickly as possible. Ivan’s cousin Steven Machado, former president of KCWA Kuwait, was the one who arranged the appointment at the hospital with the help of Ananth Moorthi.
While talking about Narayana Hrudayalaya, Ivan and Irene’s eyes sparkle and they are full of praise for the institution. According to them, this hospital is a place where human values comes first and money later. The hospital’s chairman and senior consultant cardiac surgeon Dr Devi Prasad Shetty was next to God for them. As they say, Dr Shetty’s talk and touch fills the patients with confidence and that itself heals them to a certain extent. With the doctors speaking Tulu and Kannada, Ivan was made to feel at home and cared for.
His case was handed over to Dr Dhaded Sanjaya Basavaraj. As Ivan’s case was critical, he was kept in the intensive care unit for treatment and investigation. The left side of the heart had stopped functioning as the muscles were completely damaged. As the case looked hopeless, they asked him to go home and to continue medication as surgery would be useless on him. It was an indirect hint for Ivan to begin counting his last days.
They met Dr Shetty again for a second opinion. He immediately arranged a meeting with a panel of doctors and reviewed the case. Dr T R Rajesh came up with two choices. First one was a heart transplant if a donor is found which was only theoretically possible and close to impossible; the second option was fixing a LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device) to the heart. The LVAD is a battery-operated mechanical blood pumping device manufactured in Australia.
When asked about the cost of the LVAD, the doctor explained the process and conditions, first requesting confidentiality about the expenses involved and told them to decide as human life is more important. They were given a day to decide as time was running short. The LVAD is fixed parallel to the heart and a cord transfers data with the power supply connected to a battery.
Ivan would have to carry a bag weighing containing the batteries and controller, weighing 3 kg, for the remainder of his life. He would have to change the battery every four hours and regularly dress the area where the percutaneous lead comes out. He would have to stay in the hospital for 15 days and then live next to the hospital for four months in case of emergency assistance. There was also a condition that a close relative would have to be with him during this period as a care taker. As the device is a life-saving one and not commercial, it could be imported only in the patient’s name which also required a license from the Drug Control Authority which is in Delhi. The device cost around Rs 34lac.
Irene says “It was a critical situation. We wanted to sell gold and no one was willing to buy. We wanted to get a loan on our property and the bank was not willing to speed up the paperwork due to legal formalities. We had one day to decide to save my husband’s life and there was a dark path in front of us where I could not see the way to walk. Our good deeds and faith in God always helps us. All our relatives and friends helped us and we still can’t believe how the money was arranged. Hrudayalaya had given us the maximum discount. They could not make a discount or bear the cost of the device as it was imported from outside. But they have done all the treatments at rock bottom prices and almost free.” Her eyes showed the pain she had gone through during that time.
In 2003, Venkatakrishnaiah, a 54-year-old Indian diabetic patient, suffered a heart attack. After the bypass surgery, his condition worsened and he could not walk more than six steps. As such, he had to quit his job as an engineer with the Karnataka State Electricity Board. Under the guidance of a team of US experts from the University of Minnesota, a group of surgeons at Narayana Hrudayalaya implanted in him a Ventrassist LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device) in a four-hour operation on March 20, 2008.
Doctors T R Rajesh and R Bhagirath, along with other experts, performed the surgery after gaining three months of training. Showing its noble gesture, the hospital waived the entire cost of the surgery which amounted to Rs 45 lac including Rs 35 lac for the LVAD. The second person to have this surgery was 30-year-old Chenna Basappa from Haveri. Ivan was introduced to these two people and he spent two hours with them. They instilled confidence in him.
Once the conditions were agreed to, Irene joined Ivan on August 12, 2008 and was with him till August 28, 2008. During this period, she had to undergo complete training related the LVAD and the post-operative treatment. Ivan was operated upon on August 20 and discharged from the hospital on September 11, 2008. He was in a special ICU and Irene could see him only through the glass partition.
Irene’s sister-in-law Rita Pereira was his caretaker for the next four months. Luckily, they obtained a rented house very close to the hospital. Prayer requests were passed on in Kuwait and India through friends, relatives, and through emails. Even though it was the third such surgery in Asia, Ivan’s is the first of its kind in Asia fully done by Indian doctors. The panel of doctors consisted of Dr Devi Prasad Shetty, Dr T R Rajesh, and Dr R Bhagirath.
After a stay of nearly six months, Ivan returned to Kuwait on January 4, 2009. Today, he is a perfectly happy man. He can eat and drink what he wants with no restrictions on diet. He drives his car and has begun working. He has a 300 gm device in his heart and a 3 kg bag on his shoulder. For him, his bag is more valuable than anything else in this world excluding his family. He can take a shower with proper precautions.
While working and sleeping, he plugs his device to a near by socket and the rest of the time it works on batteries. He carries eight batteries with him. In case of a malfunction, they have a spare controller which must be put in within three minutes. Ivan’s LVAD has two batteries—primary and reserve. The reserve battery is a backup while changing the primary battery or when the primary battery charge decreases. His device gives out a beep reminding him when the battery needs charging. His unit is set to pump 3.5 litre to 4 litre blood per minute. Ivan has to visit the hospital every three months to download the report/data from the device and re-tune it accordingly.
Due to the present global financial crisis, his bank had terminated many expatriates from their jobs. However, they retained Ivan’s job and always co-operated whenever he called them to extend his leave. His Kuwaiti boss has been very kind to him and allotted him a bigger office space by shifting two other employees elsewhere. Ivan thanks all those who supported him morally, financially, and spiritually. He has no words for the help rendered by Narayana Hrudayalaya, its doctors, nurses, and other staff.
Ivan’s family could hardly contain their joy, and happiness while sharing their experience. At one point, Ivan couldn’t control his tears when he remembered the 19-year-old college girl who had come for a similar operation, but was not lucky enough to survive. Ivan was given the responsibility of sharing his experience with her about the device and he spent hours talking with her helping boost her morale by being a living example.
What this proves is that a mechanical heart also has feelings and can cry for others!