KIGALI - A visiting Australian team of medical experts, in conjunction with doctors at King Faisal Hospital (KFH) in Kigali, successfully performed heart surgeries on 24 children over the past six days.
This was revealed yesterday by the Director General of KFH, John F. Mc Cally, during a press conference that was held at the hospital premises.
Dr. Joseph Mucumbitsi a pediatric cardiologist at KFH and president of the Rwanda Heart Foundation, said that heart disease is common in children with a prevalence rate of about 0.8 percent in newborn babies.
“In most cases, it is vital to carry out open heart surgery to correct these problems but it is complicated and expensive.”
“We are therefore very grateful that the team came back to Rwanda once again to perform these surgeries free yet under normal circumstances, these services would have cost about US$20,000 for one case abroad,” Mucumbitsi noted.
The Australians come from a volunteer organization known as Operation Open Heart (OOH) that has been in existence since 1986 in the Pacific and South East Asian region.
Andrew Bullock, a cardiologist with OOH said that the team first visited the country during the 12th commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
“We came for the 100 days of hope programme and performed operations as well. Having been warmly welcomed here, we decided to encourage our team to visit for this same purpose year after year. We are glad to be a part of this good cause,” Bullock said.
According to a statement from the hospital, the operation program included collaboration with local doctors in the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease and provision of urgently needed surgical procedures for heart patients.
“For the purpose of enhancing the skills of local medical, nursing and allied health staff, in-service training was also done as well as planning for a cardiac surgical programme in Rwanda,” the statement adds.
“My daughter has been suffering with breathing problems and constant sweating. She was also not as healthy as other children her age, due to the hole she had in her heart. I am glad that after the operation she is as normal as everyone else,” Jalia Nakabonye, the mother of 14 year-old Yusilla Mukeshimana told The New Times.
KFH officials noted that another voluntary team from Belgium “Chain of Hope,” has also worked closely with Rwandan cardiologists to perform 10 cases of interventional cardiac catheterizations (operations that do not require a specialist to open the heart).
Officials add that children with suspected heart issues should be taken to hospitals immediately while adults must stick to preventative measures such as body exercise and feeding on organic foods among others.