Six-year-old gets a chance to live


Six-year-old Sheba MacKenzie from Payawa village in Milne Bay is looking forward to school after undergoing a successful open heart operation in Port Moresby General Hospital last Sunday.
Sheba and five-year-old Victor Meswin were the first children from the province to be referred to Port Moresby General Hospital to have an operation under the Operation Open Heart programme.
The operation was done by local cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Noah Tapaua with the help from local nurses and volunteers of Open Heart International Australia.
Sheba’s mother, Judith MacKenzie, said her daughter was born with a hole in the heart. She didn’t know it was congenital heart disease but as her daughter was growing up, she noticed that she was not gaining much weight, she was sweating a lot during her sleep, day or night, sometimes going without  much food in her, eating a little and staying for the whole day and most of the time  breathing heavily and running out of breath when she was playing.
Judith took her daughter to Alotau General Hospital and the doctors there suspected her of having tuberculosis of the lungs so they put her on nine months’ TB treatment. After completion of the treatment, she was still sick and that’s when they found out that she had a heart problem.
They referred Sheba to PMGH in July last year for operation but she was not able to have the operation because the Australian team cancelled their visit due to a pending vote of no confidence in the PNG parliament.
Judith returned to Alotau with her daughter and came back to PMGH in February and stayed for two months.
“When my daughter was in the operating theatre, I was really worried, upset. I was having negative thoughts in my mind too, but I believed that everything would be ok, after all I came and prayed that she will be ok, and it happened she came out safe,” MacKenzie said.
“I thank the doctors, the sisters from PMGH and Australia who helped her and the sisters who worked in ward 7 and I also thank my doctors with the sisters who participated in looking after my child in Alotau General Hospital.
“I believe that God has a plan for them so they live up to this far, if he wants to take the life away he should have taken the life away when they were babies.
“As a mother, I believe that God has a plan and purpose for my daughter. That’s why he kept her up this far and now she has a second chance in life,”
Sheba will go to school because the teachers  asked me to enrol her this year.
“I said ‘no, it’s not safe for my daughter to come to school because friends might push her, hit her if I am not present so I want her to get better before she goes to school so  she is free to move around and do whatever she wants, she can exercise, play or do whatever you ask her to do.”
Dr Tapaua said about eight children per 1000  were born with congenital heart problems and it was common in developing countries. If these children did not have operation, they would not live long.
“Most of them will have recurrent chest infections and recurrent chest infections lead onto what is call rheumatic heart disease, they can have infection inside the heart. It affects the valves, and again it will lead to heart failure,” Dr Tapaua said.

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