Friday Restoration: Broken Little Hearts

Unakho small


I spent two days this week following the work of paediatricians Maurice Levy from Frere (East London) and Felicity Goosen from Cecilia Makiwane (Mdantsane) Hospitals. They were hosting again the team of paediatric cardiologists from the Red Cross Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town, which does bi-annual clinics at the Eastern Cape hospitals and which I wrote about here in December 2017.

I really wish I could bring all the people who love me into one of these clinics. It is at once the most distressing and yet most life-affirming experiences I have had. I have written extensively about the stories of some of these beautiful souls and their committed parents and will add more stories in due course (follow the link below).

These little ones travel from deep rural parts of the province for their first consultation or one of the many follow-up visits they will have completed before they reach their teens, for treatment of their impossibly broken hearts, conditions with which they were born and through no fault of anybody.

The worry in the faces of many parents is impossible to ignore. But they come away with hope renewed, as a treatment plan is discussed which will assist their children to live as near a normal life as possible. Speaking to other parents reassures them, even of the challenges that may arise should their child need to travel to Cape Town for surgery.

You notice the experienced parents – who come with bag-loads of food and drink, who pre-empt the routine in the clinic, who chat easily to new parents, who even manage to bring a load of cupcakes to share with patients and staff.

Of course, then there are the little scamps, who are as lively as anything, who couldn’t possibly be so seriously ill, right?These little people have the ability to find a dreary hospital corridor as full of fun as any playground, following each other around without a care in the world, in awe of every single thing they will experience today. The scamp in the photograph attached to this post is one of my favourite human beings, the queen of hearts, Unakho Ntshintshi, whose story you will also find if you follow the link below.

On Thursday, it was a relatively easy day for the doctors at the CMH clinic as only a handful of young patients from rural areas arrived because of an ongoing strike by ambulance drivers. Some of those parents who were scheduled to bring their children to the clinic will endure six months of worry before the next clinic in December. Of course, in an emergency, the local paediatricians will be available. But it is an unnecessary additional burden in a situation which is already very difficult for young patients and parents alike.

It also hit me squarely between the eyes that there is no echocardiogram at CMH. What they have is a 286 computer equivalent of an echo machine. It stands in a corner without being of any use to anyone.

An echo machine uses sound waves to develop a visual image of the heart and is absolutely critical for ascertaining how a heart is functioning. It is arguably the piece of technology most used by cardiac specialists in their diagnostic procedures.

I have written previously of the wonderful hospital facility that CMH has become following a massive expansion and renovation. But surely the essential clinical technology also needs to be upgraded?

I intend to work furiously with Noxolo Ntshintshi, the mother of Unakho, to secure an echocardiogram for CMH. I will share more about this soon.

Friday Restoration: Broken Little Hearts
%d bloggers like this: