The people queuing up to consult Dr Kokila Matani at her clinic may not know that the doctor has overcome a stroke and a heart ailment. She has also breathing problems during sleep.
Meet this 80-year-old homeopathic doctor from Mumbai who carries a smile and a sense of assurance on her face which brings hope to her patients. Treating her patients is therapeutic for her too.
“All for the love of my patients,” she says with conviction. “I have dedicated my life to help cure people and make them feel better and it is their prayers that keep me going,” she adds.
Dr Matani’s niece, Dr Monica M, a practising homeopath and a lawyer from Mumbai, agrees. “She has always been very independent, honest, and forthright. But what I applaud most is her service attitude,” says Dr Monica who inadvertently played a key role in her aunt’s health.
The year 2012 brought serious health challenges for the compassionate homeopath. During a trip, Dr Monica observed that her aunt snored heavily. She assumed that the latter was unaware of her condition as she lived alone.
However, it wasn’t just the snoring. Dr Matani herself had started noticing other changes in her body. She was getting out of breath while walking from one room to another. She was exhausted at the end of the day and her blood pressure levels had risen. As a stroke survivor and doctor, she sensed that a visit to a cardiologist was in order. This proved to be the right decision. She was admitted to the hospital for angina, a condition in which a reduced blood flow to the heart causes chest pain.
Further investigations revealed that Dr Matani’s angina was genetic. She also had obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a sleep disorder in which breathing difficulty interferes with sleep.
There was no structural problem with Dr Matani’s heart. The results of the ProBNp test (test for heart failure) and cardiac ejection fraction (the measurement of the percentage of blood the heart pumps out with every contraction) were normal. But she had endothelial dysfunction (a type of coronary artery disease that constricts the arteries) in which blood flow from the arteries to the heart slows down. Although there were no blocked arteries, this condition was causing angina.
“The pain used to choke me and make me breathless,” shared Dr Matani, who was also exhausted due to the reduced blood flow to the heart. “To add to the woes, the sleep apnea made my heart muscles very stiff and the heart wasn’t able to pump enough blood,” she adds.
The OSA along with angina was heavy on Dr Matani’s heart and could have been fatal if she hadn’t fought back, apart from the treatment she received.
Sleeping well with the CPAP machine
The first step for Dr Matani was to gear herself up psychologically. Being a fighter, she pushed hard against the tide to tame her illnesses and claim her life back.
There were times when she just couldn’t go on and was about to give up but her inner voice would whisper, ‘not yet’. “I couldn’t have left my patients unattended for long. They are the reason that I don’t even have a passport that allows me to travel far.”
She had to manage her conditions to prevent further damage to the heart. Being a homeopath, she opted for homeopathic medicines that helped her manage angina effectively.
For her sleep apnea, help came in the form of a machine that is as small as a lunch box. Dr Matani was advised to use a Continuous Positive Airway Machine (CPAP) for her OSA. The CPAP machine comes with a mask connected to a hose that delivers air with continuous pressure.
The little machine had a significant positive impact on her health in just a year. Her blood pressure came under control, she was less tired and her snoring stopped. “I started feeling fine and everything got better,” she recalls. She adds that with the machine, she gets uninterrupted sleep and wakes up refreshed in the morning, without experiencing any side-effects.
Still going strong
Though she cannot exert herself too much and needs to rest frequently, Dr Matani hasn’t stopped turning the clock back. Her day revolves around things that keep her happy: meeting her patients and making them smile, all while being independent. She would not want it any other way.