UITH: Bringing health to ailing hearts



Dr. Neville Solomon screening Ramat before the surgery.

Dr. Neville Solomon screening Ramat before the surgery.

NOTHING could be more painful than watching life ebbing away from one’s child withno help in sight.

So, it was Alhaji Mohammed Jubril , father of a 15 year old girl, Aisha and Alhaji Olanrewaju Balogun, father of Ramat, a seven year old girl when their children were first diagnosed of defects in the hearts.

Indeed, for the parents it was a case of constant fear of waiting for these children to die a sure death, going by the prediction of the cardiologists that recommended corrective heart surgery within a stipulated time. The medical bills for correcting the deformity from birth which was sent to them by an unnamed hospital in India, was way off what they could muster..

According to Jubril, “we had spent all the resources at our disposal on Aisha to no avail. We had even lost hope of her survival.” In the same vein, Balogun said of her daughter thus: “I am a low income earner and my wife is into petty trading. All we started doing since the advice to take her to
India came was to be praying for her. We decided to accept whatever would come our ways.”

However when they made the last attempt seeking for medical help at University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH), Ilorin their town of domicile, the ray of hope of an intervention began to beam their way. The Cardio-Thoraxic surgeon at the UITH, Dr Peter Adeoye, had immediately showed interest in their cases. Besides, the Chief Medical Director (CMD) of the UITH, Professor Abdulwaheed Olatinwo took it up as a challenge and promptly looked into the feasibility of carrying out the first Open Heart Surgery (OHS) at the hospital.

According to Olatinwo a Professor of Gynaecology and Obstetrics,  “we decided to look into about 15 cases of less privileged patients that were in need of referrals abroad but our target was to look for those with nearly zero mortality ratio. That was how we settled for the cases of Aisha and Ramat. It was a good start and we will definitely take it up from there.

The first sessions of the OHS were done in partnership with the Cardiac care team, led by Dr. Neville Solomon, a Paediatric Cardiac Surgeon from Apollo Hospitals, Chienna, India.

The two children, are said to be in stable conditions at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the hospital. They would be transferred to the paediatric ward after spending the next 48 hours, post surgery period, at the ICU. Besides, they are due for a discharge from the hospital between the next five to eight weeks.

The first OHS in Nigeria was undertaken 41 years ago at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Enugu. The team was led by visiting Professor Magdi Yacoub from UK.

According to Olatinwo, after the successful feat, the hospital and its donors contributed 75 per cent of the total cost of the surgeries while the patients paid 25 per cent. The cost of one was put at the sum of N1.8 million.

Three corrective OHS are most common in man.  The replacement of damaged valves, opening up of blocked valves and a complete transfer of heart from a donor to the recipient. The ones carried out at the UITH, according to Olatinwo, was the ones with “almost zero mortality rate.”
For Olatinwo, it is abnormal for the blood from right and left ventricles of the heart to mix due to a collapse of the separating wall. The right ventricle, he said carries the used blood outside the heart while the left ventricle carries the blood from the lung, in readiness for circulation round the body system.

The abnormality in the mixing of the blood from the ventricles was what was corrected in the two children. The glaring symptoms in those suffering from the cardiac disorder are; abnormal growth, extra work for the heart leading to consistent chest infections, and lungs’ problems.

Olatinwo, while citing medical ethics, justified the reasons for the hospital calling the briefing as that aimed at sensitising the public to the services within the UITH. Besides, he believed it would save more lives and reduce the cost and stress of travelling abroad for the same purpose.
Worried by the high rate of cardiac related cases among the less privileged, the Don said with the estimated human population of Nigeria put at 160million, about 24,000 Nigerian patients are at present in need of the services.

While commending the innumerable contributions of Federal Government and some Nigerians to the growth of the hospital, which had some two years ago performed its first successful kidney transplant, and due for the commencement of its first Cosmetic Surgery in a few weeks, the UITH boss canvassed more partnership with the hospital, especially, in the area of equipping its Cardiac Centre.

He said, “I want to use this opportunity to appeal to the government at all levels, public-spirited individuals and corporate organisations to partner with the UITH to fully equip our cardiac centre to include a Cardiac catheterization laboratory. We have already purchased a heart-lung machine which was used during the recent the recent mission, equipping the Cardiac centre is next on the list of things to do. That will cost us about N50 million.”
On the derived benefits from the partnership, Olatinwo said, “this strategic partnership is of two benefits: first is that it exposes our patients to the highest quality of surgical care comparable to that which is obtainable anywhere in the world and secondly, it then facilitates skills transfer to the members of our hospital’s cardiac care team such that subsequent surgeries are entirely carried out by them.”

The elated CMD thanked the management and staff of the UITH for their selfless services at all times just as he praised his predecessors for laying
solid and good foundation for the hospital. Besides, Olatinwo promised prompt commencement of
Tele-medicine in the hospital.

He said: “the cardio-thoracic unit of our hospital had been long in existence. It was established shortly after the founding of the hospital and was operated by Professor E.O.O Odelowo and Dr L.O. Giwa. However, due to the unavailability of equipments and supporting manpower their operations have been restricted mainly to the thorax. Complex surgeries to correct defects within the heart to replace damaged heart valves requiring a heart-lung machine couldn’t be carried out.

“The hospital management team decided to move the hospital into this new realm of service delivery to give succour to the helpless patients in our society and contribute our quota to reversing the current trend of medical tourism to hospitals outside the and end the associated capital flight.
“The success of this programme was made possible by the invaluable support of the Federal government, through strategic allocation and prudent use of our Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) careful selection of the right teams, contributions of our staff in cash and in kind, and the generous supports of many philanthropists in the society.”

The leader of the cardiac surgeon,Dr Solomon praised his colleagues at the UITH for their high level of professionalism, before, during and after the surgeries. Besides, he gave a succinct lecture to interested surgeons and theatre nurses of the UITH, urging them to avoid marginal errors while discharging their duties.

Solomon, according to Olatinwo, did not charge any fee for the surgeries. For the Indian, he had done over 3,000 of such operations free of charge across African and Asian countries. Besides, Solomon said he had seen the potentials in the UITH medical team with a promise to do 80 per cent of Cardiac related operations in future in the hospital.

He said such services were rendered to his patients because of his believe in giving back to humanity especially, the down trodden, the privilege of ever becoming a surgeon within the same society. Besides, he said he would form a veritable partnership with the UITH to frequently visit the hospital for such type of services to humanity “before we go back to our God.”

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