Krishna Jhangiani had just turned 17 when doctors told him that his heart was “weaker than a 90-year-old man who had suffered two heart attacks”.
Barely two weeks into his final year of school, the King George V student knew that his life was about to drastically change.
Krishna grew up a healthy child. “I loved playing with my friends, used to play rugby, swim and hit the gym,” he says. “But that summer I spent in India changed everything.”
Days after returning from a summer holiday in India, Krishna started experiencing excruciating stomach pain, nausea and headaches. Doctors initially gave him Panadol to relieve his symptoms – it did not work. A week later, his symptoms got worse, and Krishna had no energy and began vomiting blood.
Multiple tests later, he was diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart’s ability to pump blood is decreased because one of its chambers, the left ventricle, becomes enlarged and weakened.
“My heart was pumping at 15 per cent capacity,” says Krishna. “I was quite close to the edge of life, and admitted to the intensive care unit immediately.”
While it would be easy to feel defeated after receiving such news, Krishna knew he had to remain strong and keep fighting.
“Having a positive attitude was so crucial to my recovery,” he says. “I told my family that no one was allowed to cry. We all had to stay strong.”
But during his recovery, Krishna noticed a large gap in research and information available online for teens with his condition. So he chose to fill that gap himself, by starting a blog called “Life at 15 per cent”.
Krishna wrote about his journey in detail, explaining how each procedure helped him, and how it made him feel. It has become his personal diary of self-reflection and growth.
Even now, to make a full recovery, Krishna will need a heart transplant. In the meantime, doctors have given him a mechanical device, called a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), which helps pump blood to the rest of his body.
The LVAD is a battery-operated electromechanical device which is attached to his body 24/7.
“I knew that it was going to significantly change my way of life,” says Krishna. “I can’t swim any more, I have to be careful when I take a shower, and I have to wear a backpack at all times.” His backpack carries the wires and batteries of his LVAD, which need to be replaced frequently.
In spite of these obstacles, Krishna hasn’t stopped living life to the fullest. He continues to blog, travel, has given TEDx talks about positivity, and even run in a 24-hour race.
In 2018, he was given a full scholarship to study business management at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
“When I celebrated my 18th birthday, I didn’t even know if I’d make it there, or what kind of life I’d be living,” he says. “But on my 18th I celebrated one year of being strong.”
Krishna has become a strong supporter of organ donation, and wants to raise awareness about the importance – and urgent need – for organ donation in Hong Kong.
In a city of more than seven million people, only about 290,000 people have signed up as organ donors in the government’s registry. And according to the International Registry on Organ Donation and Transplantation, organs were taken from only 50 deceased donors last year.
“Organ donation helps someone have a new chance at life,” says Krishna. “If – through my blog – I can encourage even one person to sign up, I’ll be happy.”
At 17, Krishna was assigned a fate most children his age never have to consider, but because of his mindset, support system and determination, he beat the odds. He is now working on his own app, to assist others with similar medical conditions.
“I feel truly blessed to be where I am today, and am extremely proud of myself for achieving what I have.”