There’s a Hindi lullaby that Kalpana Prasad has sung for years— first to her daughters as babies, then to her grandchildren as they came along. It was the first thing she was able to sing following the stroke she suffered in 2021 that confirmed for her she was on the road to recovery. And she credits the incredible care at The Ottawa Hospital for that.
Music has played a large part in Kalpana’s life. The retired federal government economist had learned classical Indian music in her homeland, and perhaps not surprisingly, it was a musical program she and her husband Rakesh were watching on television in their Ottawa home last January when she suddenly lost control of her right hand.
“I somehow knew it was a stroke, just because of how my hand felt.”Kalpana Prasad
“I somehow knew it was a stroke, just because of how my hand felt,” Kalpana recalls, who urged Rakesh to call an ambulance.
“It happened so suddenly — no warning, nothing,” says Rakesh. “I’m very thankful we have her with us.”
Paramedics rushed Kalpana to The Ottawa Hospital’s Civic Campus Emergency Department, which specializes in stroke prevention, care, and recovery. This was during the height of the pandemic, and family visits were difficult. Kalpana says the medical staff and the patient care assistants stepped in to fill that role. Here, her voice breaks as she recalls one particular employee.
“She was like a mother to me, so gentle, so caring. I was so surprised that a stranger could be so kind. That speaks to the care at the hospital; it was every single person there.”
“She was like a mother to me, so gentle, so caring. I was so surprised that a stranger could be so kind.”Kalpana Prasad
For two days, Kalpana couldn’t speak. She had lost her ability to talk due to the stroke. The couple’s youngest daughter, Ruchi Prasad, is an internist in Maryland and had frequent conversations with doctors about her mother’s condition. Kalpana recalls Ruchi imploring the medical staff to “get her voice back because my mother loves to sing!”
It was the Hindi lullaby Kalpana was first able to hum, then sing, that she recorded and sent to her daughters. When her older daughter Reshma Mathur heard the song, she said, between tears, “Mom, you’re going to be fine.”
Kalpana’s care at The Ottawa Hospital extended to physical therapy and speech therapy, and while she still has some slight issues with her speech, she is incredibly thankful to be alive. This gratitude inspired the Prasads to establish the Rakesh and Kalpana Prasad/Mathur Family Legacy Endowment Fund through a generous donation. The fund supports heart and stroke research at The Ottawa Hospital.
“We believe that we come from nothing and go with nothing. Our idea is that we want to inspire other community members, including other Indo-Canadian community members, because it can happen to anybody at any time.”Rakesh Prasad
“I need to do something for this hospital that literally saved our lives,” says Kalpana. Rakesh echoes that sentiment, saying the hospital saved him as well after doctors discovered blockages in his heart 20 years ago and implanted two stents.
“We believe that we come from nothing and go with nothing,” says Rakesh, referring to a well-known Hindi phrase. “Our idea is that we want to inspire other community members, including other Indo-Canadian community members, because it can happen to anybody at any time. It’s our responsibility that we should help this community that we so enjoy.”
And there is much to enjoy, including, of course, song.
“Nanhi Kali sone chali, Hava dhire aana.”
“My little flower is trying to sleep. The wind should blow softly.”
The Ottawa Hospital is a leading academic health, research, and learning hospital proudly affiliated with the University of Ottawa.