In his parents’ eyes, Osaze Badal is an Easter miracle.
On March 28, in the middle of Holy Week, the Sangre Grande teen underwent life-saving heart surgery at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC), Mt Hope some five years after being diagnosed with a serious defect.
And while he is recovering splendidly from the near three-hour-long operation, it would be months before Osaze can participate fully in football, swimming, athletics and dancing– activities he has enjoyed for much of his 13 years.
“I’m good,” he says of his convalescence.
“I’m not in pain anymore. But I have to hold off on sports because the doctor said I would need six weeks to heal and six months before I could become totally active again.”
Osaze told Sunday Newsday he was extremely grateful for the love and support of his parents, Clifton and Camille Jack-Badal, as well as the team of doctors who performed the procedure.
Jack-Badal, a secondary school teacher, said they were relieved and overwhelmed their son has made it through the operation successfully.
“I am still a little bit in shock but I am overwhelmed. I am praising God profusely,” said Jack-Badal, a devout Roman Catholic.
“I am experiencing mixed emotions but I am thankful that this has happened at the time in which it did - Holy Week.”
Praising the work of the team of doctors, Jack-Badal said she and her husband could not have desired better for their son.
She said the horror stories she has sometimes heard about the EWMSC was a far cry from what they experienced.
Despite the high level of competence and professionalism shown in the handling of Osaze’s case, though, Jack-Badal is convinced there is an inherent spiritual dimension to their son being afforded a new life.
She said the manner in which the events leading up to her son’s surgery unfolded has renewed her faith in divine intervention.
Jack-Badal revealed that Osaze, which means “favoured by God” in Hebrew, turned 13 on March 21 and received the phone call for his surgical procedure– an anomalous right coronary artery reimplantation– four days later, on Palm Sunday.
Coincidentally, Osaze was born on Palm Sunday, March 21, 2005.
Jack-Badal explained the surgery was to rectify Osaze’s right coronary artery which had become intertwined with his aortic valve.
Now, optimistic that the worst is over, Jack-Badal said she and her husband are humbled by the blessings they have received.
They also have vowed to never take for granted the experiences they share with their two young children.
An energetic, fun-loving teen, the Holy Cross College student was diagnosed as having a bicuspid valve when he was just nine years-old.
According to wikipedia, a bicuspid valve is an inherited form of heart disease in which two of the leaflets of the aortic valve fuse during development in the womb resulting in a two-leaflet valve (bicuspid valve) instead of the normal three leaflet (tricuspid).
Jack-Badal said she learnt, then, the condition was not life-threatening.
“People with bicuspid valve live to a ripe old age and it only bothers them when they are in their 70s.”
She said the condition would have simply required that he visit a paediatric cardiologist, annually, for a check-up.
However, Jack-Badal said nine months after discovering the bicuspid valve, her son started experiencing seizure-like attacks.
“He would stiffen up, gasp for breath and hold his chest in pain. Then we would rush him to the hospital.”
Jack-Badal said she and her husband quickly consulted the paediatric cardiologist (the only one in the country), whom she said, suggested the bicuspid valve would not have accounted for the seizures and discomfort he was experiencing.
Nevertheless, the cardiologist opted to run further examinations, which included an echo stress test and neurological test.
“They were all good so she (cardiologist) put it down to mean panic anxiety attacks.”
But Osaze’s medical issues did not end there.
In his second week at Holy Cross College, last September, he passed out and was unconscious for about 45 minutes.
Osaze was taken to the Arima Health Facility before being transferred to the EWMSC.
Jack-Badal said the doctors did not think the bicuspid valve would have accounted for his blackout but chalked it up to him entering puberty “so the hormone imbalance would sometimes cause pre-teens or teenagers to pass out.”
The doctors also advised that they again visit the paediatric cardiologist, whom Osaze had been seeing for the past five years.
Jack-Badal said when she took Osaze to visit the cardiologist, the doctor did not like what she saw and carried out further tests.
Jack-Badal said when the results came back in November, they learnt that their son’s right coronary artery was being compressed.
She said: “When the cardiologist broke it down for me, it was coming off on the wrong side of where it was supposed to come off and was going between the two valves and being restricted somewhat.
“That is what caused the black-out and that is what has been causing all of his problems all along, which she mistakenly took for panic/anxiety attacks.”
Saying the condition was rare, Jack-Badal learnt that puberty also played a role in masking the condition.
She said the cardiologist also told them that surgery was the only option to rectify Osaze’s problem, since it came with no symptoms and could result in death.
Jack-Badal said she and her husband did not waste any time.
They sought advice from a variety of sources, one of whom advised them to seek a second opinion from a visiting cardiologist.
And as fate would have it, the cardiologist, she said, requested copies of Osaze’s medical report to take to the US for further consultation.
During that time, the Badals had accumulated some funding through barbecues and other events to assist with their son’s surgery.
The also consulted with officials at the Children’s Life Fund, whom they said were extremely helpful both in consultancy and in fast-tracking the procedure.
Jack-Badal said her son was scheduled to have done the surgery at Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami, in June.
“We got through with the funding and we were going there to do it and bam, out of the blue, unexpectedly, coming out of nowhere, Caribbean Heart Care (Medcorp Ltd) called on (Palm) Sunday and they asked us to bring him in.”
The surgery was performed last Wednesday.
Asked what is her advice to parents who are experiencing a similar dilemma with their children, Jack-Badal told Sunday Newsday: “The best advice I can give to them is to pray and trust that God will work it out and he (God) showed me no less than in Holy Week.”
She said Osaze, an altar boy at St Francis of Assisi RC Church, Sangre Grande, was preparing for the Easter Triduum at the time he got the call to prep for surgery.
“He had the surgery done to save his life and glorify God. He (God) had prepared him to enter into this time of pain and suffering with him. That is the significance of what God did at this time.”
Jack-Badal thanked the priests at the church as well as Frs Trevor Nathasingh and Jason Boatswain for their prayers and support.
She said she also was grateful for the support of staff at Franciscan House and members of the Holy Cross College and Arima North Secondary communities.
Jack-Badal said the family has planned a thanksgiving service for Osaze at St Francis of Assisi RC Church on Sunday.