Zim reaches open heart surgery milestone

Patients who successfully underwent open-heart surgery pose with some of the doctors and nurses who helped them during the operation at an update meeting at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals in Harare yesterday.

LOCAL doctors have demonstrated the country’s prowess and capacity to compete with the best in the world in offering open heart surgery following 12 successful surgeries out of 12 performed at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals in Harare since resumption in June.

Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals stopped offering the surgery in 2018 and patients had to travel to South Africa, India and other countries for the complex procedure which is being performed for free at the moment.

During an update meeting attended by health specialists, heart surgery patients and journalists following the resumption of open heart surgery, patients yesterday could not hide their joy following the successful operations.

A 42-year-old woman, Ms Gladys Ngoshi, who suffered from heart problems for the past 34 years, narrated her ordeal.

“I was diagnosed with a heart problem when I was eight-years-old. My face and stomach would become swollen.

“I had two valves which were not working properly. In 2021 that’s when I had a heart attack and doctors told me that I was supposed to be operated on or else I would die,” said Ms Ngoshi.

She said at first she was sceptical but doctors reassured her.

“I went to a cardiothoracic surgeon where they wrote my name on the list of people to be operated on. I was surprised that in this country heart surgeries are being done. Doctors told me that they will replace the two damaged valves. I was scared but doctors gave me confidence. They said I had no other problems so it will be successful”, Ms Ngoshi said.

“I would like to thank the health practitioners. I am so glad that these surgeries are now being done locally because we could not afford to travel to India”.

Another patient, Ms Stella Zuze (60), said she fell sick in August last year and would have swollen legs which would become black in some instances. At first she thought it was hypertension (high blood pressure).   

“I went to the hospital and was told to visit Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals. I then met a team of doctors and it was discovered that it was a heart problem.

“I was told to get operated on but later I was told that I was 60-years-old hence was not fit to be operated on. I really wanted to be operated on because I had seen others who had undergone successful operations. 

“I then insisted that I be operated on and look now, I am very fit and I need a farm to cultivate,” said Ms Zuze.

The only male patient, Mr Courage Chimufombo, also shared his experience and thanked President Mnangagwa for the free open heart surgery programme.

“I was admitted here last year in December after being diagnosed with a heart problem but there was no machinery. I want to thank God that the machinery came and I want to thank President Mnangagwa who made the machinery available,” said Mr Chimufombo.

Ms Chipo Wezinani (42) said she was a cross border trader until she was diagnosed with a heart problem.

She added that after being diagnosed, some people told her that she should get treated in India, South Africa or China but she had no money and this worried her until she was called to come for an operation at Parirenyatwa Hospital.

Ms Wezinani gave credit to Zimbabwean doctors.

“I was treated well. I am proud of the Zimbabwean doctors. I have so much joy. Even at home I am always bragging that we have excellent Zimbabwean doctors. India and China are now in the country through our local doctors,” she said.

Ms Abigail Billion from Seke, Chitungwiza, who suffered from heart problems for 10 years, said she takes pride in the Zimbabwean health workers as they are well trained.

“I used to doubt the Zimbabwean doctors but after this successful operation on me, I can safely say Zimbabwean health workers are the best and they can compete even at a global scale.”

Specialists cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon Dr Simukayi Machawira said this is just the beginning and they hope that this programme will cascade to all provinces.

“We call upon those who need assistance to come through. We also encourage companies to support the Government on this programme because it requires huge assistance for it to spread across the country.

“We also ask medical aid companies to desist from sending patients outside the country. We have doctors who are able to do open heart surgery here, we need your support and to be recognised worldwide that our country can perform such surgeries,” said Dr Machawira.

Another cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Wilfred Muteweye thanked the Government for giving them an opportunity to serve the country through conducting the surgeries which are expensive.

“He said there is no need for our patients to go to India for services which we can perform.”

Cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Kudzai Kanyepi thanked the whole team and called for more support from various partners.

“It’s a great pleasure to be working in your country doing what you are trained to do. I must thank the patients. I called some and they said no but we thank these patients for trusting us. The team is always supporting each other. It’s truly a team effort,” said Dr Kanyepi.

“We need support to continue to motivate the team and retain our team. It’s going to be bigger and numbers are increasing,” she said.

Open heart surgery chief sister Ms Spiwe Mandipa said the surgery is not easy to prepare for.

“Preparation is done before the day of surgery and when surgeries are successful like this we feel so happy that we are helping and changing lives,” Ms Mandipa.

At least 12 heart patients have so far been operated on. Out of the 12 patients, one patient died a few weeks later after a successful surgery but a postmortem showed that the patient died of another ailment that had affected the intestines.

A heart operation in India costs anything between US$8 000 to US$15 000 depending on the complexity of the case.


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