Student fights illness in pursuit of dream

2016-01-11 10:00
Verushka Jagernath

Verushka Jagernath (Supplied)

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Pietermaritzburg - Maritzburger Verushka Jagernath has attained a university degree in spite of fighting heart disease all her life.

She was born with a cardiac problem and her parents were told she would not survive for five months, but that was 23 years ago.

When Jagernath was born at Mediclinic Pietermaritzburg in 1992, doctors discovered a congenital heart problem.

She told The Witness that her love for an Audi R8 sports car helped to keep her dream alive of attaining a university education. “If you have a goal do not give it away. My goal is to see myself driving the R8 and I’m studying hard every day to achieve it,” said Jagernath.

Now 23 years old, she holds a Bachelor of Business Administration, which she obtained at the University of KwaZulu-Natal last year.

When she was a week old, a paediatrician discovered a murmur in her heart and she was diagnosed with truncus arteriosus, a rare type of heart disease that occurs at birth, in which a single blood vessel comes out of the right and left ventricles, instead of the normal two vessels, the pulmonary artery and aorta.

This meant Jagernath would face a life of medical treatment and regular doctors’ appointments.

After undergoing a heart transplant at five months old, a surgeon said she needed a homograft (tissue grafted from a donor in order to further perform the heart correction surgery).

Doctors had warned she would have to return to replace the homograft, as she was likely to outgrow it in three to four years.

She took her education seriously in spite of living in and out of hospital corridors, but her health worsened as she grew older. “In high school I was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. It was serious. I was hospitalised and was monitored regularly.”

She occasionally asked for a hospital pass to sit for exams at Raisethorpe High School, and she would return to hospital after each paper.

While studying toward her degree, she was forced to undergo a second heart transplant, as only five percent of her heart was functioning at that time.

This was followed by another year out of school, as her condition has confined her movements.

Jagernath was accepted for a BCom (honours) degree this year.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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