Calcutta, July 28: He has always been a fighter, battling hard for almost everything a child takes for granted. The daily bread, basic education and good health — nothing has come easy for Sandeep Dey. But the 16-year-old has never complained; he has put his head down and stuck to his books, despite crippling poverty and a failing heart.
The results are showing. The extended scar on his chest and the Madhyamik 2003 marksheet sum up a remarkable tale — the son of a teastall owner in Paschim Gopinathpur near Haripal in Hooghly scored 84 per cent. Between the examination and the results, he underwent a critical surgery to replace a damaged valve in his heart.
Sandeep has now enrolled at the Darhata Rajeshwari Institution to study arts and graduate in geography. “I have always loved geography,” said the shy boy over a neighbour’s telephone from his village, a two-hour drive from the city.
Though he had breathing trouble and related problems from a very young age, Sandeep’s leaking mitral valve was diagnosed much later. His parents could do little. His father, Kalipada, earned Rs 1,000 a month from his teastall, and with a family of six to feed, could hardly provide Sandeep the care he needed.
The boy’s condition grew worse, but not enough to loosen his grip on the school merit list. Sandeep, who has never stood second in class, thanks his teachers for “taking special care of me and helping me through the difficult times”.
As his bouts of breathlessness and doubts over his making it to the Madhyamik examination hall increased, the family approached the Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences for advice.
A meeting with Ashutosh Raghuvanshi, cardiac surgeon and the institute’s clinical director, and guidance from the institute’s Guest Support Cell helped the Deys stitch together resources for the surgery.
Sandeep’s only request was that the doctors wait till his exams were over. Realising that a year lost would demoralise the boy and stretch the family’s resources, the doctors monitored Sandeep closely right through the examinations, before wheeling him into the operating theatre in May to replace his valve.
But now the braveheart breathes easy. “I am fine,” smiled the teenager. “I have learnt to be patient, to take a step at a time.”