Pi (heart disease)

Pi has always been different from other children…

Pi is eighteen years old and lives with her family in a small village in eastern Burma. Her mother says that she noticed Pi’s condition when she was just three years old. Pi was weak and very different from other children because she was frail and often sick. She was not a happy child and she always looked tired. Pi was not able to play much at all. When she was ten years old, her mother took her to a clinic near their village. The doctor diagnosed pneumonia and gave Pi some antibiotics. However, her condition did not improve. As the years went on, Pi’s ill-health continued and her mother tried to treat her with traditional medicine because they did not have enough money to go and see a doctor.

Pi’s mother says that when her daughters condition started to deteriorate, she worried about her a lot. She tried very hard to save money for Pi to go to a doctor and get treatment. Finally, in 2008, her mother had saved enough to be able to take her to another clinic. Again the doctor told them that Pi had the same problem as before – pneumonia. She had a follow-up appointment to return to that clinic but their neighbors told them to come to go to the Mae Tao Clinic instead. They said that it was much better than getting treatment in Burma.

Journey to the Mae Tao Clinic

Pi’s mother says it was very difficult for them to get to the Mae Tao Clinic on the Thai side of the Thai-Burma border because they didn’t know the way and they did not have enough money for transportation. In November 2009, Pi and her mother finally set out for the Clinic and followed their neighbors to ensure they arrived safely.

When Pi arrived at the Clinic, it was evident that she had a heart problem. She was referred to the Burma Adult Medical Fund (BAMF) and sent for further investigation. Pi was eventually diagnosed with a congenital heart disease known as Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF). TOF  is complicated and it is also known as ‘blue baby syndrome’. It is the most serious out of the congenital heart disorders. TOF is an anatomical malformation of the heart and it requires complicated surgery (and often multiple procedures) to repair. This explains why Pi has been in poor health since she was a child.

When she came onto the BAMF program in November 2009, Pi said that she felt very tired and that she was suffering from heart palpitations. She had lost her appetite and wasn’t sleeping well at all. Pi goes on to say that she was unable to continue her schooling because her condition was deteriorating to the point where she was physically unable to attend classes and concentrate on her studies.

Pi going to Chiang Mai for surgery (25 Aug ’11)

Pi’s Future Aspirations…

Pi hopes to get better as she really wants to continue her education. She says in the future she would like to pursue a career as a medic because she would be able to help her community in her village. She also wants her mother to be happy. At the moment her mother is very sad as she worries about Pi all the time. Pi’s mother just wants to see her daughter healthy and happy.

Update 13 September 2011: Pi traveled to Chiang Mai on the BCMF Patient Van on 25 August. She underwent major heart surgery in Chiang Mai yesterday. She had total correction of TOF. She is still in the intensive care unit (ICU) being monitored but it is expected she will be well enough to move to the normal ward this evening.