“I never knew. I only came to know in 1995 (twenty years after surgery ) that I was the first woman to get a bypass surgery in India in 1995 when I saw a newspaper clipping,” says 84 year-old Daisy D’Costa on a Saturday evening in her sprawling house in Perambur, Chennai. In 1976, Daisy D’Costa became the first woman in the country to undergo a bypass surgery at the Railway Hospital in Chennai. She suffered a massive heart attack in 1975 and was rushed to the hospital. “There they told me that my main artery was blocked and asked to prepare myself for surgery,” says Daisy, who was 44 then. “Oh, it was really painful,” Daisy said, recalling the heart attack that made her want to tear her clothes because of its severity. She was rushed to the Railway hospital in Perambur where she underwent a cardio catheterization test. “I was asked to reduce my weight in preparation for the surgery,” she said, adding that she went on a diet soon after. It was in the aftermath of her attack that she met Dr. KM Cherian, the famous cardiac surgeon who performed her surgery and who has remained her doctor since. (Daisy D'Costa with her daughter, Annie) The following year, on April 23, 1976, Daisy was wheeled in for a surgery that became a path-breaking achievement for the surgeons operating on her. The first person to undergo the coronary bypass surgery was a man named Kajah Mohideen who was then 42. Incidentally, it was Dr Cherian who performed this operation as well. It’s been almost 40 years since then. She holds up a wrinkly, now yellow newspaper clipping of the article written by Dr Cherian carrying her name and picture as the first woman in India to be operated upon for a bypass surgery. Dr Cherian, now the chairman of Frontline Hospital, made history when he operated on both the first man and woman to undergo the bypass surgery. The best technology and equipment available back then has since been vastly improved upon. “Everything was different about that surgery,” says Dr. Cherian. When he performed the surgery then, magnification equipment or surgical headlights which are mandatory in operation theatres now, were just not there. “Today we have cold light sources. They don’t warm up the body tissues,” he says unlike the ordinary bulb which was the standard equipment when Daisy was operated on. Dr. Cherian says that they also had to make do with the available staff. There were no trained cardiologists present in the operation room, and the angiogram (an investigative test for viewing the heart’s blood vessels) was done by a radiologist instead of a cardiologist. A signal and telecom engineer from the railways department nearby performed the job of a perfusionist. A perfusionist is an integral member of cardiovascular surgical team who manages the cardiopulmonary machine (an artificial blood pump) which temporarily controls a persons’s circulatory and respiratory functions during the surgery. Even the disc oxygenator used then – a device used to supply oxygen during a bypass – has now been replaced with a membrane oxygenator, he says. D’Costa spent 11 days recuperating in the hospital after the surgery before she could go home. The years since have not been without pain, but it hasn’t been serious enough to take her back to the emergency room. A beautician by profession, Daisy D’Costa gave it up to actively involve herself in social work for the police and public vigilance. “I used to be involved in helping in counselling in brothel cases or other cases,” she says. She once contested the municipal elections too. “She keeps herself pretty active,” says Annie, her daughter. “I move about a lot,” Daisy added, preparing to leave for a Saturday evening church service.Daisy has five children, eight grandchildren and four great grandchildren. With three of her children living in Australia, she travels often and has plans to visit them later this year.