By Meghana Dwarakinath
I have always assumed that my life would figure itself out — that all the problems would fade out of existence merely by me being ignorant of the events happening. I had relatives who suffered from various medical issues, primarily cardiac, but as a mere teenager, I never really thought that I could help alleviate their issues.
As a result, I supplied myself with a mask constructed from my indifference and failed to consider the significant effect their conditions had on their lives. I believed that it was more important to focus on my own life. Stupid right?
As I approached my second year of high school, I thought that my life was perfect. I was enjoying my time in marching band and in the classroom setting. That was the case for a while — until the worst happened: I was notified that one of my good friends had died of an undetected heart condition.
From that point, I knew that I couldn’t be ignorant anymore of the events around me. My mask finally cracked open and exposed a liberated version of myself — a side of myself that wanted to make a difference within the cardiac world, once and for all, without the cynical part of me saying otherwise.
This is where the journey begins…
Independent Study and Mentorship
In order to further explore the field of pediatric cardiology, I was chosen by my school to take part in an independent study and mentorship program throughout my junior year of high school.
In turn, I was able to learn and shadow under Dr. Carrie Herbert, UT Southwestern Associate Professor in Pediatrics & Children’s Medical Center Pediatric Cardiologist, for approximately a year. From shadowing various catheterization procedures to consulting patients in the clinic, I was able to get a glimpse at the various sides of medicine that are overlooked.
Designing a CHD Java Database
In tangent with the first six month of my study, I became greatly fond of the possibilities in the advancement of CHD preventive measures and trajectory guidelines. Over the next six months, I researched various effective treatment options and preventive measures for over 15 of the most prominent congenital heart defects.
It was through using a java programming tool that I was able to present the various guidelines for each defect based on user input into the program. My goal for this program was not only to convey crucial information but to also create a convenient way to access such information for those recently diagnosed. I was able to present this java program, in addition to my research, to over 200 people, including many medical professionals from various institutions in the North Texas area, at the Ford Star located in Frisco, Texas!
Publishing My First Book on CHD
Approaching the month of March 2020, I was originally planning on taking part in a research study between Children’s Medical Center in Dallas and UT Southwestern Medical Center. This research study involves the advancement of PDA stenting procedures and the efficacy of particular anti-inflammatory drugs during operations.
However, due to the current circumstances, this was, unfortunately, put on hold. Instead, I decided to pursue a side of the field that is less talked about: the psychological and emotional toll of living with CHD. In order to learn more about this field, I designed a survey that I sent to Mended Little Hearts (MLH) of Dallas to distribute to people within their online community.
After the survey’s national board approval, it was shared with many people in the MLH Dallas community. It was with these survey responses that I was — in the next two to three months — able to publish the book Gateway Into Living With CHD. After publishing my book, I was able to share it with Mended Little Hearts, and I never expected to receive such a great and positive response.
It is important that we acknowledge such issues in any way possible. Whether big or small, change can light the spark that lets the fire of a scientific revolution begin. A year ago, I would never have thought that I would make such an impact in the realm of congenital heart disease. However, with a great sense of determination — and most importantly, passion — even a pebble can move waves.
My name is Meghana Dwarakinath, and I am a 17-year-old high school student from Frisco, Texas. Throughout my high school journey, I have not only studied treatments and preventive measures for congenital heart defects but also the psychological and emotional toll such defects can have.