New Zealand High Commission Pretoria, South Africa
Christchurch Walk Supports Heart Surgery for Zambians
Christchurch Hospital registrar Munanga Mwandila decided to become a heart surgeon the day a patient died in his arms.
Fresh out of medical school, he became a junior doctor in his home country of Zambia, where the reality of health rationing soon hit home.
"I found myself in a hospital that had limited resources and began to realise that what you know you are supposed to do and what you actually can do are worlds apart," he said.
Now he is part of a team of Canterbury health workers raising funds to travel to Zambia to do 15 heart surgeries in March.
Cantabrians are being encouraged to join a walk around Hagley Park on February 27 to help raise funds for the trip, which is organised by the Mutima Project started by Christchurch cardiac surgeon Harsh Singh.
Thirty to 35 health professionals had offered their time free, with 70 per cent from Christchurch and the rest from around the country, he said.
Singh said rheumatic fever was common in the African country, with some people developing heart-valve problems. Most patients would be dead by 30 without surgery.
"The beauty of the surgery is that most of them return to normal life expectancy and normal quality of life," he said.
Zambia had no cardiac surgeons, but a charity managed to send a few patients overseas for surgery each year. In contrast, about 300 people in Canterbury had heart surgery annually.
Singh hoped the Mutima Project would do 15 to 20 heart-valve replacements annually over the next five years. The Kiwi team would train a Zambian doctor to perform the surgery.
"It's a small group of people trying to do good in the big wide world," Singh said.
Mwandila said the patient he remembered most vividly was a woman in her early 20s with two young children and suffering from rheumatic heart disease. Stocks of medication had run out and oxygen was being used by an Aids patient.
"So I sat by her side that night and watched her die," he said. "I know she was just one of many. That's the kind of person I would hope to fix."
Mwandila hopes to return to Zambia once he becomes a qualified heart surgeon.
The walk starts at 11am at the footbridge end of Salisbury St on February 27.
Further information can be obtained from: http://www.mutimaproject.com/
Source - The Press and Stuff.co.nz