Kochi Hospital Gives New Lease of Life to 10 Children from Uganda
A group of 10 children from Uganda, who were suffering from congenital heart ailments, got a new lease of life after receiving treatment at a Kerala hospital last month. The children, nine boys and a girls, including two infants aged 6 and 9 months, underwent open-heart surgery at the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS) in Kochi.
The young patients were brought to India under Rotary International’s ‘Gift of Life’ program, which provides free treatment to child heart patients from economically disadvantaged families in low and middle income countries. The children were earlier examined by paediatric cardiologists from Children’s National Hospital, Washington DC, and identified as candidates who would be suitable for the surgery in India. The project was coordinated in Uganda by Grace Agwaru, who was the first beneficiary of the programme in 1975, when she was five years old.
Lack of Facilities in Africa
“Facilities for critical open-heart surgery for young children are almost non-existent in Africa,” Dr. AC Peter, national coordinator of the Rotary International scheme, said in a statement. “The patients would all have perished within a few years had this opportunity of free open-heart surgery was not offered to them. Their parents were heart-broken and had lost all hope,” he added.
Treatment for Other Ailments
Dr. PK Brijesh, the heart surgeon at Amrita Hospital Institute of Medical Sciences who performed the operations, said that in addition to the heart conditions, some patients were also found suffering from other ailments, and were treated for those as well. “We realized that the patients will not get a second chance to visit a hospital and no one will treat them for those problems, if we did not do so at present,” he said.
So while two-year-old Christine Namalwa also underwent ophthalmic treatment, Mariam Biira was cured of a condition called Exomphalos that causes protrusion of the bowel and liver outside the abdominal cavity.
The cost of the medical treatment, boarding and lodging for the patients and their attendant, return air tickets, and all other related expenses were met by the project.
India as Medical Destination
India is a leading destination for patients from African countries who need treatment for serious diseases. Last year, the Rotary Club of Nkwazi in Zambia sent 20 children to New Delhi for life-saving heart operations. The children, aged between zero and 12 years, are now doing fine following the life-changing operations. Last month, the organisation arranged for screening of 47 children, of which 24 were found eligible for operation in India, UK or Israel.