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Rotary gives hope to children with Rheumatic Heart Disease

FILE PHOTO: A Dr. examines a child suffering from Rheumatic Heart Disease

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Up to 150 Ugandan children suffering from Rheumatic Heart Disease have been given a new lease of life thanks to Rotary International. The international service organization has committed a 1 billion Shillings (USD 272,500) grant towards correcting the life threatening complication caused by throat-bacterial infections.

The condition results into damage of the heart valve which affects the flow of blood from the heart to other organs. Untreated, RHD causes heart failure and those affected are at risk of arrhythmias, stroke, endocarditis and complications during pregnancy. These conditions cause progressive disability, reduce quality of life and can cause premature death in young adults.

To save Ugandan children from such agony, Rotary International is supporting a joint project by The Rotary Club of Kampala, in partnership with The Rotary Clubs of Naalya, Mengo, Bukoto and the Rotary Club of Engle Wood Lemon Bay Sunrise in Florida to reverse the damage caused by the infection.

The clubs will use the funding to expand the capacity of the Pediatric Cardiac Program in Uganda, enhance the Rheumatic Heart Disease outreach and treatment program in Gulu District, and support the addition of low-cost telemedicine solutions which allow doctors at the Uganda heart Institute to provide daily remote Consultations, and interpretations of echocardiograms performed in Gulu.

The Grant has also funded a Vocational Training Team (VTT) Rheumatic Heart Disease Surgical mission from Washington National Children’s Hospital in the USA led by Dr Craig Sable who has been researching and studying the incidence of RHD in Uganda for the last four years.

The team has led the operation of 11 Ugandan children in a mission that started on November 26 and will last until December 3. The remaining surgeries are expected to start in January next year. 30 of these will receive Open Heart surgery, 20 will receive closed heart surgeries while 50 will receive Interventional Catheterization procedures. The government of Uganda will pay for another 50 cases.

Dr Peter Lwabi, the Deputy Executive Director of the Uganda Heart Institute says that the institute has a long list of children requiring treatments for heart diseases.

Open heart surgery will involve the stopping of the heart as doctors correct or replace the faulty valve. During closed open surgery, the heart will not be stopped during the procedure. The other procedure is heart catheterization where a thin tube attached to a medical device will be inserted into the body through the groin area to open or close any blockages that might be affecting the heart.

Dr Lwabi adds that the remaining surgeries will be carried out by Ugandan doctors who have been working closely with the foreign team. Most of the cases that will be operated on are from Gulu, Lira, Mbarara and Kampala.

The project was initiated in memory of Rotary International President Elect Sam Owori who passed away last year after a minor operation in the United States.
Dr Craig Sable, the director of Echocardiography at the Children’s National Health System and professor of pediatrics at George Washington University, who is leading the team of doctors from the U.S., says that RDH is avoidable.

“This condition is serious and can lead to death but it is also preventable. Treating sore throats early with penicillin can keep children safe.”

Data from the health ministry indicates that a total of 130,000 children suffer from the disease while the rheumatic heart disease registry in Uganda shows that 1,500 children with the condition are in need of surgery. Sadly, 50 percent of the Children with the condition in Africa die within the first few years of life without intervention.



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