Indian Medical Team Perform Free Open Heart Surgeries on 25 Children at UNTH

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By Ahamefula Ogbu

A medical mission led by some Indian experts have commenced free open heart surgeries for 25 indigent children  suffering from congenital heart diseases at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Ituku Ozalla, Enugu, Enugu State.

The mission was sponsored by The “Gift of Life”, a non- profit initiative by the Spiritan Self -Awareness Initiative Nigeria, working  in partnership with  the Aruike Hospital, Enugu, Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeevani Hospitals, Naya Raipur, Chattisgarh, India and the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu.

Surgeries would be followed up and Nutritional Assistance Programmes to ensure that each child treated receives proper nourishment to support full recovery and a healthy growth.

Speaking with THISDAY on the mission, the lead surgeon, Dr. Ashis Katewa said they had screened over 100 cases and would have performed more sessions but for the dearth of facilities at the center of excellence.

He blamed late conception in women for the disease and put the right age for bearing children for them at between 25 and 35 years, adding however that population control was the best way of reducing such cases in addition to available medical treatment for afflicted children.

“Prevention is key and population control is way to start. Education and incentives are used where the population growth is without subscription. You can reward those with fewer children as incentive. However, it will take like 50 years control to push the figure down.

“When mothers are older, heart cases in their children are higher. Cells from the father regenerate after 21 days whereas in women, the cells get as old as they age. Between 25 and 35 years is the ideal time for healthiest birth cells in women. Too early is not good because they cells haven’t matured well while late makes it susceptible to heart defects,” he said.

Katewa who said he had performed over 5,000 cardio pediatric surgeries in his 10 years of practice after training for 15 years has so far led missions to five other countries, adding that it was his way of giving back to humanity without which life was meaningless.

According to him, apart from carrying out the surgeries, their main aim was to train Nigerians to be able to handle the operations by giving them hands-on experiences in their hospitals in India, citing the case of Dr. Petrolina Tabansi who was screening the children as part of the scheme. Tabansi is currently undergoing further training in their facility in India.

Katewa advocated the healthcare model in his country for Nigeria where treatment for all was free, adding that their hospitals except for those set up by business. He said that government funded hospitals as well as corporate set ups were free while Trusts charged minimally and would want such replicated in Nigeria.

He was of the view that rich Nigerians could give back to society by setting up hospitals that operate no account counters so that the very poor in society could be availed of quality healthcare.

Organiser of the mission, Reverend Father Charles Ogada said he was moved by the plight of mothers and children who could not afford treatment and had commenced mind rebuilding programmes through free educational and health programmes, adding, “Our hospital at Ebe is the only non-counter hospital in this country, we also run free educational programmes.”

He promised to run similar programmes twice yearly as the joy he saw in faces of parents and children gave him the best feeling and reason to live.

Dr. Basden  Onwubere,  Chairman . National Cardiothoracic center at UNTH lamented the inability of the government to complete the new center that would have space for over 250 patients to be treated simultaneously and cared for at the same time but promised not to relent but press  on to ensure more facilities.

He said the center had carried out more open heart surgeries than any hospital in Nigeria and were making giant strides before things slowed down due to negligence of facilities and lack of funding.

Gif of Life, the sponsoring NGO said, “Every year around 85,000 children are born with Congenital Heart Diseases in Nigeria. This is a treatable condition, if they can receive the urgent medical attention required to save their lives and to enable them lead normal and healthy lives.”

Earlier, the Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Zone 6, Mr. Adeyemi Ogunjemilusi, assured the Rivers State Governor that the police would perform their responsibility professionally to ensure credible polls in 2019.

He said officers and men were receiving the required training to be neutral and professional during the polls.

He commended the Rivers State Governor for his logistical and financial support which had assisted the police in carrying out her duties.

The Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Zone 6 informed the governor that the Zone would arrange a peace accord for security agencies, political leaders and INEC ahead of the 2019 elections.