Free heart surgery brings hope to Busoga children

Ms Jennifer Kyozira carries her baby who underwent heart surgery conducted at Jinja Regional Referral Hospital by doctors from the facility and cardiac consultant surgeons from the Uganda Heart Institute (UHI). PHOTO | DENIS EDEMA

 

What you need to know:

  • A total of 11 children between the age of seven months and five years, screened and prepared by Jinja Hospital Pediatric Cardiologist, Dr Emmanuel Tenywa, underwent a successful heart surgery and are on a path to recovery.

A team of cardiac surgeons from the Uganda Heart Institute (UHI) and Jinja Regional Referral Hospital have been conducting free surgeries to correct congenital heart defects in children from the Busoga sub-region since Monday.

The five-day program targets children born with holes in their hearts, a condition that can be surgically repaired.

The Jinja Hospital director, Dr Alfred Yayi, on Wednesdaysaid: “One of the reasons for conducting this heart surgery here is to bring this specialised service closer to the people of Busoga and also to pass knowledge and skills in cardiovascular health care to the staff in Jinja Hospital.” 

He added that such operations are also part of the processes of preparing the facility to host a regional cardiac centre for delivery of routine cardiovascular services in the near future.

A total of 11 children between the age of seven months and five years, screened and prepared by Jinja Hospital Pediatric Cardiologist, Dr Emmanuel Tenywa, have undergone a successful heart surgery and are on a path to recovery.

Dr Tenywa said over 350 babies with heart problems from the sub region have been registered for clinical visits every Friday, while 16 new cases are registered daily, a problem he says needs support “from all concerned with humanity”.

According to Dr Tenywa, when the babies are first brought to the hospital, they present symptoms consistent with anemia.

The Executive Director UHI, Dr John Omagino, said once a heart problem is not detected early, it affects the child’s normal growth. He added that one in every 100 babies born has a heart problem and their job is to ensure it is identified early and treated. Currently, such services are only available at UHI, leading to congestion at their facilities. 

Dr Omagino further explained that Mulago only has one operating theater that is becoming congested, and therefore, UHI is looking to carry out heart surgeries in well-equipped regional hospitals like Jinja, which has a modern ICU system. He, however, advised the administration of Jinja Hospital to directly pipe oxygen to the ICU and operating theater as one of the standard requirements.

He outlined plans to partner with regional hospitals like Jinja to establish heart surgery centers across the country. These centers are planned for Mbarara, Mbale, Arua, Yumbe, Soroti, Moroto, Kabale, Masaka, Hoima Fort Portal, Gulu, Lira, Entebbe, and Kayunga. 

Consultant Pediatric Cardiologists’ Coordinator of Outreach Services at UHI, Dr Twalib Aliku, said poor feeding by expectant mothers during pregnancy, over consumption of alcohol and drug abuse, taking unrecommended medication, hypertension and diabetes are some of the causes of heart problems among babies.

“I advise pregnant mothers to eat foods which have nutrients and to also have children at the right time of age and not at an older age to avoid such complications,” he said.

Ms Jovia Nakiyumba, 20, a resident of Busembatia whose one-year-old baby was operated on, said ever since she gave birth, she has not got rest, but two days after the surgery, the baby looks better.

Ms Jennifer Kyozira, a 24-year-old resident of Bugembe in Jinja North City Division, said her baby was born with a hole in her heart and needed at least Shs4m for an operation, but is grateful for the free operation courtesy of the UCI-Jinja Hospital partnership.