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101, but craving for 'quality life' intact
- Frail yet fearless, freedom fighter gets pacemaker

Calcutta, Oct. 9: When Hemlata Khatua was told by her doctor last month that she required an immediate pacemaker implant, the few relatives who had gathered around her gaped in disbelief. And they couldn't be blamed, for Hemlata is 101.

The least bothered was the frail woman herself: she made it known that she was ready for the surgery. 'I am not worried about my age. I am only concerned about the quality of my life so long as I am alive,' Hemlata told her family, each word exuding courage and mental strength.

She was operated on, and is 'absolutely' fine now.

'She has even gone back to her usual chores. We were apprehensive in the beginning, but we also knew that with such strong willpower, she would surely pull through,' said son Manoj.

The woman has made history in being the oldest pacemaker-implanted patient in Bengal.

Hemlata had shown fearlessness from the start.

In her youth, she and husband Sripati, who passed away recently at 106, had fought for Independence. All through her life, recalled her son, she never complained of ill health and has insisted on the 'quality of life' she is living.

'But she has not been keeping well since my father's death. She fell unconscious several times and was admitted to nursing homes,' said Manoj, a senior officer of a corporate house.

When her condition wors- ened, she was taken to Apollo Gleneagles Hospital. 'A series of tests confirmed our worst fears. Her heartbeat was irregular and the heart was not contracting. She was an ideal candidate for a pacemaker implant, but we wondered whether the family was keen about it,' said physician Dhiman Sen.

After several rounds of discussions, the Khatuas consulted cardiac surgeon Rabin Chakraborty, who explained to them that a pacemaker implant was the only way to improve her condition.

'Not many people know that elderly patients are ideal candidates for permanent pacemaker implants. I have come across many cases of malfunctioning hearts causing patients loss of memory,' pointed out Chakraborty.

Earlier last week, Hemlata decided to take the plunge and a single-chamber pacemaker was implanted in her chest.

'She was frail, but not afraid,' surgeon Chakraborty recalled. After a few days' rest, she was back home.

Doctors admitted that though implanting a pacemaker was not difficult, they were a little fearful because of the woman's failing health.

There was a chance of complications in the lungs and the heart beat becoming irregular. But Chakraborty was confident that nothing would go wrong. 'I have done implants on many aged patients abroad. Chances of anything going wrong was minimal.'

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