Mending little hearts


When 2-year-old Samudh Gunawardhar from Sri Lanka, referred by Rotary Club of Colombo, landed at New Delhi with his parents  Oshan Wijesiri and Malitha Nammuni  on May 26 by Sri Lankan Airlines, they never felt that they were in a foreign country; they were at ‘home,’ in the safe hands of Rotarians and hospital staff.

After a day’s rest at the accommodation arranged by the Gift of Life (GoL) coordinators, Samudh was operated upon at the Fortis-Escorts Heart Institute in Delhi for TOF, a critical Congenital Heart Disease (CHD). He is the 18th child from Sri Lanka to be treated under Rotary GoL project.

Sri Lanka lacks adequate facilities for critical open heart surgery for CHD patients. Same is the case with other SAARC nations such as Nepal, Pakistan and also the Tibetan Government-in-Exile from where recently many children visited Delhi for open heart surgery. Children also come here from Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, Nigeria, El ­Salvador and Zambia for open heart surgery. Over 30 children from Uganda have benefited from this project. Nyasha Joshua Mwamba (18) from Zambia, referred by the Africa Vision of Hope through Gift of Life International, also underwent treatment for CHD here in June.

CHD accounts for 20 per cent of infant mortality in India, affecting 8 out of every 1,000 live born infants. An estimated 2.25 lakh children are born with heart problems every year, 30 per cent of which are serious and could be fatal without surgical intervention.

But facilities for CHD surgery are limited to only 12 Indian hospitals. Successful treatment requires specialised care and financial resources. Rotary has joined hands with specialist private hospitals in Delhi for performing open heart surgery for economically weak children (up to 20 years) suffering from congenital heart diseases.

Ever since its auxiliary, Rotary (Delhi NCR) Gift of Life Trust, was formed on July 20, 2005, three CHD diagnostic medical camps were organised at Jammu, Imphal and Kochi. Rotary India has successfully completed 5,000 heart surgeries under GoL, for underprivileged children. Commemorating this milestone, RI launched an animated campaign, ‘Saving little hearts.’

GoL India Chair Ravishankar Bhooplapur (PDG of D 7250, USA) organised a fund-raiser dinner at New York recently where substantial funds were collected for treating children with CHD in India. “I do not want any child to die for lack of financial resource for treatment of CHD and I am always willing to support Clubs and Districts for this project,” he said. TRF Trustee Sushil Gupta is the Advisor for GoL Delhi.

TRF Chair John Kenny visited this project recently along with his spouse June, and said, “This is a classic example how Rotary can promote peace and understanding between nations through international humanitarian service.”

GoL New Delhi has so far spent US $1.02 million from grants in ­addition to substantial funds from GoL and donors. This month, TRF sanctioned US $131,000 Global Grant (GG), and 18 Rotary clubs/Districts in India joined as host partners for this GG. Two more applications with support from TRF Trustee Jackson Hsieh and Bhooplapur as international partners await TRF approval.  Hsieh supports the programme and Rotary Clubs and Districts of Taiwan participate in GoL grant schemes every year.

GoL Delhi aims at performing 300 surgeries a year and urges Rotary clubs to refer deserving cases.

(The writer is National Coordinator, Gift of Life – India)

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