KIGALI - Seventeen patients with rheumatic and congenital heart diseases have successfully undergone cardiac surgery free of charge at King Faisal Hospital-Kigali (KFH -K).
The operations that started on April 18 and ended on Tuesday were conducted by a team of doctors from the Australian ‘Healing Hearts Northwest’, who worked along with local medics at the hospital.
According to the KFH Public Relations and Marketing Manager, Adeline Muhoza, the hospital and the Australian team operated and provided post-surgery treatment to 17 adults and children.
“Healing Hearts Northwest, which conducted the operations, is part of the International Partnership with Cardiac Surgeons that brings on board Open Heart Team from Australia, Team Heart from Boston and Chain of Hope from Belgium,” Muhoza said.
She added that the teams are composed of specialised surgeons, anaesthetists, cardiologists, physiotherapists, paediatricians, pharmacists and nurses who have been supporting the National Cardiac Programme at KFH for the last six years.
“This specific team, which joined the international partnership in April 2010, is composed of 42 Doctors and allied health professional and mainly specialises in both children with congenital cardiac defects and young adults with rheumatic heart diseases,” Muhoza added.
She noted that so far, 221 cardiac patients who had been referred to KFH from various hospitals across the country have already benefited from these highly specialised operations.
“Our target is 300 patients per year over the next five years,” said Muhoza.
Meanwhile, Muhoza pointed out that there were no specific statistics about heart patients in Rwanda, noting that most cases reported at the hospital are already in their final stages.
“The best way to avoid late treatment is to make frequent medical check-ups, irrespective of whether someone has complications or not,” she said.
According to Dr. Joseph Mucumbitsi, the head of Rwanda Heart Foundation, the government would have spent close to US$200,000 if the patients who received treatment were to be flown out of the country for treatment.
He added that normally, the medical teams fly in with equipment weighing about two tons which they leave behind at the end of each tour.
One of the patients who underwent the operation, James Buzayo, said that he started developing complications in 2009.
“Throughout my entire life, I had never faced any health problem until 2009, when I began getting difficulties in breathing, I started feeling weak and decided to seek medical attention after, which was then that I was told that I had a cardiac problem,” Buzayo said.
“When I arrived at this hospital, doctors were surprised by my case since I have lived all this time without one of my heart valves.”
Missing a heart valve is normally referred to as pulmonary atresia, which is in the class of congenital heart diseases in which the pulmonary valve is deformed..
This kind of defect is normally recognised immediately at birth, though Buzayo lived with the problem up to the age of 54 years-a case that surprised doctors.