According to a study conducted by Cambridge Core, an estimated 15 million children die or are crippled annually by treatable or preventable heart disease in low- and middle-income countries. This excludes the lives of a new-born baby and a 7-year-old toddler, whose surgeries will be performed at no cost thanks to a partnership between Life Healthcare Group and Thanda Heart Foundation.
Congenital heart disease (CHD) is among the most common form of heart disease, with an estimated 11 000 children born annually in South Africa with this condition. Of these, approximately 4 500 will require surgical intervention. “Congenital heart disease has become more prevalent amongst children in South Africa however, many children are not able to receive the life-saving surgery and treatment they need. The support being offered by the Life Healthcare Group and the Thanda Heart Foundation will make a lasting impact in the lives of these children for many years to come,” said Dr Samkelo Jiyana, Paediatric Cardiologist.
“The two paediatric patients are a new-born baby and a 7-year-old toddler. Their surgeries will be performed at the Life St George’s Hospital in Port Elizabeth which is renowned for its world-class cardiac centre that focuses on all aspects of cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery from prevention and diagnosis, to treatment and rehabilitation of cardiac patients
Dr Adele Greyling, renowned paediatric cardiologist and electrophysiologist and founder of the Thanda Heart Foundation will be performing the surgery alongside Dr Jiyana. Greyling established the foundation in 2018 to address the unmet needs of patients with congenital heart disease, and those of the physicians treating them.
After the broadcasting on Carte Blanche about the continued lack of cardiac catheterisation lab facility at PE provincial hospital, the Thanda Heart Foundation received a very generous donation from an anonymous donor. The donation was to cover the costs of the cardiac catheterisation procedure that Joshua Van Der Merwe Brynard from PE required.
“This generous donation was in fact, the first donation that Thanda Heart Foundation had received which enabled us to achieve the mission of the foundation, to make the highest standard of health care accessible to all children and adults with heart disease in the Eastern Cape,” said Heather Henry-Lines, director at Thanda Heart Foundation
Henry-Lines said they approached Life Healthcare to be part of this journey for these children and are thankful that they have offered their support.The surgeries for these children are also a tribute to the late Professor Lungile Pepeta, paediatric cardiologist and an executive dean of the Nelson Mandela University’s Faculty of Health Sciences who was passionate about giving children with heart disease a fighting chance.
The board members of Thanda Heart Foundation agreed unanimously to approach the Life St Georges Hospital in PE for permission and assistance to perform Joshua’s procedure there, as a way to recognise and honour Prof. Pepeta, who was a friend, a mentor and a man who never stopped fighting for the right of children of the Eastern Cape, South Africa and the African continent as a whole to receive treatment for congenital heart diseases.
“We contacted the hospital manager Mr. Alex Daneel and explained our situation to him. It took very little convincing to get Mr Daneel on board. He opened his heart and hospital to us. Within hours we received a quotation from St Georges and the Life Healthcare group went out on a limb to help us from all relevant departments. After reviewing the quote from Life Healthcare, we realized that we would have sufficient funds to be able to treat more than just Joshua. Little did we know that in the same week a one-month-old baby presented at Dora Nginza Hospital with Critical Pulmonary stenosis,” said Henry-Lines.
The parents of the one-month baby have expressed their gratitude towards the foundation, Life St Georges Hospital and its staff, as well as to the ambulance service who provided an ambulance and highly skilled staff to transport their baby to and from Life St Georges hospital from Dora Nginza Hospital. They are overwhelmed by the kindness of the two organizations who offered their services at no cost.
Joshua’s Mom, Elmarie said the stress of waiting for the new Cath Lab at PE provincial to open and wondering every day what would happen to her son, was unpleasant and terrifying. She went on to explain that her own health had been effected through the stress of waiting. Elmaries has a sense of relief and gratitude toward all of the team members who made this surgery possible. She hopes that the foundation will continue to help other parents.