Josephine Maseruka writes in The New Vision
Doctors at the International Hospital Kampala made a major break-through last weekend when they successfully carried out the first two open-heart operations in Uganda.
A 14-strong team of experts, including two British, carried out both operations to repair atrial setal defects, commonly known as a hole in the heart.
Mark Atwine, 13, from Bushenyi, will enter history as the first Ugandan to undergo the operation in his country. He was diagnosed with a hole in the heart at the age of nine and was operated on last Friday.
The second operation was carried out on Sunday on David Kalenjera, 17, who was found with the same problem six years ago.
Dr. Galukande examines Kalenjera
after the successful surgery at
International Hospital Kampala
Both boys had endured the pain for years, as there was no hope their parents could raise the over $11,000 (about sh20m) for the cheapest surgery in India.
Dr. Ian Clarke, the director and proprietor of the hospital, told The New Vision that although each operation cost $6,000 (sh11m), they were carried out free of charge under the auspices of Hope Ward, a charity department of the hospital.
“It is a break-through because it has demonstrated that Ugandans have the capacity. I have worked in Uganda for 20 years and I have tried to build capacity. The operation is cheaper than anywhere in the world,” Clarke said.
The team, which spent four hours on each operation, was led by Dr. Moses Galukande, a surgeon at the hospital. The cardiac team was headed by Dr. Clement Akomea Agyin, a British national of Ghanaian origin who is a consultant cardiac surgeon at St. Anthony’s Hospital London. Dr. Agyin, who is married to a Ugandan, also donated the heart lung by-pass machine.
The team further comprised of perfusionist John Francis Nelson, Tom Mwambu a cardiac surgeon from Mulago, and anesthesiologists Stephan Tendo, Joseph Ejoku and Cephas Mijumbi.
Dr. Edward Khahdazhapou led the intensive care unit, Susan Elaborot led the hospital laboratory team, while Sister Maureen Twikirizi led the team of theatre nurses. The hospital plans to carry out 20 open-heart operations per year with the help of donors and through fund-raising events. Seven more are scheduled for September.
Clarke emphasised that the hospital can only repair holes in the heart and no other heart surgeries. He said it took them almost a year to reach the required standards to perform such high-level surgery.
The hospital spent hundreds of dollars to procure the necessary monitoring, anaesthetic, theatre and laboratory equipment, while a team of theatre nurses was sent to Mulago to be trained in cardiac surgery.
“Heart surgery is not something that you go into when you are half-prepared. You must be ready for it. This is something we have been developing for the past 11 months with Dr. Moses Galukande and Dr. Clement Agyin,” Clarke added.
When The New Vision visited the hospital, Atwine was off the intensive care gadgets though he was still in great pain, unable to talk. The nurses said he had managed to walk around the room. Kalenjera was still monitored in the intensive care unit but doctors said he was steadily improving. Clarke said during the surgery, the blood is circulated through the rest of the body by the by-pass machine. The heart is then paralysed, opened and the hole is repaired. At the end of the surgery, the paralysis of the heart is reversed and the circulation to the heart is restored. The patient is closely monitored in intensive care for several days before taken back to the ward.