“Knowing our baby’s heart has been repaired is the best birthday present we could have wished for,” said baby Atang’s father, Ernest Matshoga.
Atang underwent a specialised procedure two weeks before her first birthday, to correct the life-threatening heart defect she was born with.
“It was very emotional for us as parents waiting for our baby to come out of theatre. We are truly grateful for the opportunity, and we appreciate what this operation means for our daughter’s future.”
“When we learned that our baby girl had a hole in her heart, I think I had a nervous breakdown,” says her mother, Tintswalo Baloyi.
“The heart is not something you can live without, like an arm or a leg. The heart is so vulnerable and central to life.”
Tintswalo says that their daughter is recovering very well.
“She is enjoying lots of attention from her grandmother, and we were so happy to celebrate her first birthday. She is still too young to talk, but even at such a young age our little girl knows what she wants, and she has no difficulty making it very clear to us,” she laughs.
Thank goodness for kindness
Atang’s procedure was a corporate social investment match funding initiative of Medipost Holdings and the Netcare Foundation to help children who need urgent life saving operations.
The Maboneng Foundation, a non-profit organisation, coordinates the sponsorship of surgeries for South African children with congenital heart defects.
Specialists of the Maboneng Heart and Lung Institute provided their time and expertise pro bono for the operation, which was performed at the Netcare Sunninghill Hospital in Johannesburg.
According to Dr Erich Schürmann, cardiothoracic surgeon and co-founder of the Maboneng Heart Institute, Atang’s heart’s condition would have become “debilitating, potentially life threatening if it was not corrected soon.”
Atang’s ventricular septal defect (VSD) was brought to their attention by the team at Steve Biko Academic Hospital.
An emotional race against time
The surgery which Atang underwent is resource-intensive and unfortunately, there is a great need for such procedures, which means there is a long waiting list.
Dr Schürmann says, though that it is a race against time.
“As the child grows, the heart defect causes damage to the arteries of the lungs. We were determined to find a way to help Atang to have the operation sooner with private sector support to cover the theatre and hospitalisation costs.”
The procedure to close the hole in Atang’s small heart was performed by cardiothoracic surgeons, Dr Martin Myburgh and Dr Hendrick Mamorare of the Maboneng Heart and Lung Institute, paediatric cardiologist, Dr Janine Meares, anaesthetist Prof Nathi Mdladla and cardiac perfusionist Mr Thulas Dladla, who all practice at Netcare Sunninghill Hospital.
Atang has had to learn to cope with medicine from a very young age and her mother says she won’t be surprised if her daughter ends up becoming a pharmacist one day.
“She knows her medication so well and she was so good when I gave her medicine for the heart condition that I think she might have a future as a pharmacist. Her personality already shows she is caring, so perhaps that would be a good match for her. Time will tell.”