Oz volunteers help mend broken hearts


About 1400 children are born with heart diseases in Papua New Guinea every year, an official says.
Open Heart International Australia team leader Dr Darren Wolfers said over the years they have decreased the number of volunteers coming into PNG because more locals were trained to be part of the Operation Open Heart surgeries.
“I can’t come on a regular basis, we need to keep training and supporting them to do it. We slow down, we are doing a lot more teaching and we’ll keep having smaller teams, we brought less equipment,” Wolfers said.
“I brought a much smaller team and we are working behind, and alongside our colleagues so that means we do less cases for the next few years. We broaden up their skills so when they take over they can do it,” Wolfers said.
Local heart specialist Dr Noah Tapaua said about eight children per 1000 births are born with congenital heart problem and it was common in developing countries.
“This is happening in every developing country like Papua New Guinea and our population is growing at a rate of 2.5 per cent so this problem will not go away.
“So we will continue to fix the heart.  There is one group we are dealing with and there is another group of infection that especially affects adults, and the lifestyle coronary artery diseases.”
Tapaua added that if children with heart diseases were not operated on early they would not live to see their 20th birthday.
“Most of them will have recurrent chest infection and chest infection leads on to what we call rheumatic heart disease.  They can have infection inside of the heart, it affects the valves, and again it will lead to heart failure.
“They will go on medication but the medicine cannot fix the underlying problem, for children it’s the best time to operate.”
Paediatrician Dr Cornelia Kilalang said, “Basically the end result would be they won’t live a normal life.”

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