Working with the charity Healing Little Hearts in India

One of the things I love about photography, is that people let you into their lives. We get to see behind the scenes of events and stories. It is a very privileged position to be in.

I was reminded of this when De Montfort University, where I teach, asked me to take a group of students to India. The goal was to document the health charity, Healing Little Hearts.

The charity was founded in 2007 by Dr Sanjiv Nichani, a Paediatrician based in Leicester. He was concerned that whilst illnesses such as Malaria and Aids were recognised, not enough help was being given to children with congenital heart disease. A million children die of heart disease every year, across the world! In a lot of cases surgical intervention, could treat the disease and completely transform a child’s life.

Over the past few years the charity has slowly grown to the point where last year they sent twenty teams to different developing countries. In November they treated their 1500 patient! In addition to operating on children, they also train local doctors. We went to a camp in the busy industrial centre of Vijayawada, in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The visiting team was made up of doctors from the Czech Republic and the UK.

Having been to India before, I knew that the students would have a lot to come to terms with. There is obviously a culture shock, but also witnessing open heart surgery could possibly prove to be a challenge. Nothing really prepares you for this type of job. You just have to get on with it and digest it all afterwards.

At the beginning of the week, we witnessed children being screened. Some of them were obviously very ill and got out of breath very easily. Surgery started on the Monday, with up to four operations being carried out each day.

One lasting memory will be of a little girl, being screened early in the week and going into surgery. On the last day we were there, I went to the recovery ward to say goodbye. Having last seen her attached to all manner of tubes and sensors, I was shocked to see her crawling around her bed playing with a family of dolls. This was just three days after having had major open heart surgery!

Overall the students coped fairly well. A few took a little time out, but they worked hard. It was a life changing experience for them all.

It was a real privilege to witness the work of the charity. If you would like to know more about them please visit www.healinglittlehearts.org.uk

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