Vianney Kibibi and Joy Batamuriza’s joy of being parents was almost cut short when their three-month-old daughter started experiencing attacks that almost claimed her life.
At the time of her delivery, she had shown indications of difficulty in breathing but the doctors advised them to give it a few months to be completely sure about what the problem was.
Batamuriza noticed that while her baby was breastfeeding, she would pull away suddenly and gasp for air.
“Something was seriously wrong and we had to take her back to Oshen-King Faisal Hospital where she had been delivered. The doctors discovered that she had a heart defect; our baby Lia had a narrowing of the aorta, we were scared and didn’t know what we were going to do to save our child,” Kibibi recalls.
Luckily, Oshen-King Faisal referred them to a team that was visiting the hospital at the time, Chaine de l'Espoir Belgique, a children’s NGO from Belgium that helped them seek treatment abroad.
“It was an emergency and the team from Chaine de l'Espoir Belgique was there for us. They covered all the expenses right from treatment to travel expenses. The hardest part was letting our child go alone with the team but the constant updates on how she was doing comforted us,” Kibibi says.
Baby Lia left for Belgium in October to receive treatment and came back last month, safe and sound.
“It was the longest time we’ve ever had to wait; it felt like years, our house was so empty that all we had to do was pray. God indeed heard our prayers, our child is much better, she feeds well and though she is still on medication, we have faith that everything will work out just fine.”
Catherine de Pierpont, the Coordinator of Chaine de l'Espoir Belgique, says that for her, it is a gift with each child that they get to help.
“We give a lot but we also receive a lot. I will never forget the look in the eyes of Lia’s mother when we gave her back her baby, for me, it was the best gift and all my motivation was in the eyes of her mother,” Pierpont says.
Baby Lia just after cardiac surgery in Belgium./Courtesy photos
She commends the team work that makes it possible for all of this good work to happen.
“It is always work in a chain; the doctors in Rwanda, the family’s trust to send the baby to Belgium, the volunteer families who care for the baby in Belgium, this is what makes it possible for us to get a chance to save lives of young ones.”
Each year, Chaine de l'Espoir Belgique carries out surgeries in Rwanda, but children who are too sick to wait for the surgeries that are usually done in November are taken to Belgium.
Chaine de l'Espoir Belgique receives support from different organisations and one of them is the Rotary Club of Rwanda.
Ndoba Mugunga, head of Rotary Club Rwanda, says one of the core aspects of the club is to support such organisations to ensure a healthy nation, more so in mother and child health.
“The investment in the life of these children is worth it. What we aim for is to increase access to treatment and also the quality of the treatment for paediatrics. These children mostly come from needy families and without assistance; they could have little chances of surviving. What we do is for the parents and society,” Mugunga says.
Andrea Malet, the corporate responsibility manager at Oshen-King Faisal, says the most important reason for bringing these missions is to help build a sustainable cardiac programme in Rwanda. Through these missions, medics get a chance to receive training from experts.
“What we want to do is to develop a cardiac surgery unit in Oshen-King Faisal Hospital. We appreciate what Chaine de l'Espoir Belgique is doing; this is invaluable and there is no price for that. Corporate social responsibility in this hospital is the most important aspect and what we want now is to keep this partnership for a long time so that they continue to help us develop specialty here in Rwanda,” she adds.