"Mukta is no more." A middle-aged, distressed man passing through a corridor of Dhaka Shishu Hospital (DSH) painfully informed his wife over his cell.
Mukta had respiratory problem when she was born. But she was cured of it temporarily while receiving treatment from a local hospital. But she relapsed soon after and was rushed here expecting improved result.
Asked about her death, attending doctors said that she had "congenital heart disease".
Every year, about 25,000-30,000 children were born in Bangladesh with the disease and 90 percent of them die before they reach five, most without treatment. A-third of Bangladesh, which is about six crore people are children and they need special attention, particularly because they were "so vulnerable", the experts said.
Dr. Dilruba Ibrahim Dripti, medical officer at the Cardiology Department of Dhaka Shishu Hospital, said "Congenital heart disease is a kind of heart disease that includes abnormalities in cardiovascular structures that occur before birth. These defects occur while the fetus is developing in the uterus.
"Its symptoms are manifested within six months of their birth. The common signs of congenital heart disease include, excessive sweating, extreme exhaustion, fatigue, poor appetite, rapid heartbeat, brisk breathing, short breath, chest pain and a blue tinged skin (cyanosis)."
"If the disease is not treated properly, affected children may develop other complexities, which could be mortal. Therefore, urgent, proper and timely diagnosis and treatment is critical," she said.
"If the ailment is diagnosed timely, it could be fully cured," said the physician, adding that a vigorous campaign needs to be launched to create greater awareness among people about the little-known malady.
Over the last three decades, the number of children visiting specialized doctors with the disease was on the rise, alarmingly. Unfortunately treatment cost remains prohibitive, particularly for the poor, despite the availability of expertise at both private and government hospitals.
According to a number of studies, including one by Professor Manjur Hossain, head of the department of cardiology, Dhaka Shishu Hospital, the number of diagnosed children with the disease at a tender age was scanty. In most cases, the disease was diagnosed, late and they were hospitalized in a critical condition.
However, considering the grave situation the government was considering setting up 18 specialized centers across the country, including one at the Dhaka Shishu Hospital.
A sound baby brings happiness to a family but a child with physical disability is a painful blessing. Early diagnosis and greater awareness could change all that, doctors said.