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The 'What Inspired You?' Series - Story 1

Coronary Cameral Fistula. “What is it?” “Your brother has a heart condition in which there’s an abnormal vascular connection between the coronary arteries and the cardiac chamber” My 3-year-old brother was diagnosed with this rare congenital malformation. Coronary artery anomalies occur in less than one percent of the general population. You can’t even imagine how painful it is like a sibling seeing your baby brother, who from the outside looks just fine, even better than just fine , being wheeled away to the operating theatre. The leap of faith you have to take in the doctor who’s going to be sawing open the sternum. He and his team cared about our family and developed a meaningful relationship with us. I remember one of the house officers held my mom’s hand as she burst out in tears. I knew then that I wanted to become a doctor to provide that for others.

The only treatment was the closure of this abnormal connection surgically. Open heart surgery. Our family got hit hard with emotions. It was the first time I saw my dad cry out loud and pray. The surgery was successful. I remember seeing him afterwards. So frail. So unaware. Covered in all types of tubes. We told him he was going to be like an iron man with this new alteration to his chest. But this was 8 years ago. Now he looks at his battle scar and questions us, why did this happen, how did this happen and I want to have an answer for him.

As so little is known about the causes of congenital heart disease, there's no guaranteed way of avoiding having a baby with the condition. Factors during pregnancy can increase the risk of congenital heart defects. Being obese, using tobacco, and taking certain medications, for example, could potentially be avoided by pregnant women and thus hold promise for preventing some congenital heart defects. Although researchers are learning more about congenital heart defects, much work remains. This is why I’ve been inspired to head down the Cardiology Route. I want to find out why this happens and what we in the future can do to prevent these defects.

Right now, researchers are

• Investigating the possible effects of other factors during pregnancy, such as fever, infection, and medications on the risk for congenital heart defects.

• Exploring approaches to decrease the number of women with uncontrolled diabetes during pregnancy, which could prevent some congenital heart defects, as well as other major birth defects

It doesn’t matter what inspires you, as long as you have that something that keeps you going. Medical school isn’t easy. You need that motivation and the drive to succeed. I’ve found mine, what’s yours?

Roisin Sheikh is a 4th-year medical student at Masaryk with a keen interest in Cardiothoracic surgery. She is also the Charity Board Member at MIMSA.

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