The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the team, led by an expatriate surgeon, Prof. Willaim Novick, conducted the surgery to correct the dysfunctional heart of a 15-months-old baby.
Novick, while briefing Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, who had gone to witness the surgery, described it as an extreme rare cardiac condition and the first of such a case in Nigeria.
“We took our chances on the 15-month-old baby and it was successful.”
According to the surgeon, `Truncus Arteriosus’ is something that happened inside the heart, where the heart has only one blood supplying vessel.
“A normal heart has one vessel that leaves the right side and goes to the lungs and another vessel that leaves the left side of the heart and goes to the body.
“In Truncus Arteriosus, the patient does not have two defined vessels leaving the heart. He has one vessel. So, there is no separation between the lungs’ blood flow and the body blood flow.
“So the problem results in too much blood going to the lungs and not enough going to the body. The operation we did is a curative one to correct the defect,” Novick explained.
In his remarks, the Chief Medical Director of UNTH, Dr Christopher Amah, told the governor that most of the surgeons were from the U.S., Canada and the UK.
Amah said that the hospital has collaborated with the expatriate cardiac surgeons for many years.
“They are here to join hands with the team in UNTH to perform open heart surgeries on 25 sick Nigerian children who may have died prematurely, if help had not come through this exercise.
“Dr Novick was here in 2003 as the lead surgeon to perform similar surgeries on Nigerian children under the sponsorship of Kanu Nwankwo Heart Foundation and he is here to repeat this kindness for no payment.
“It may interest you to note that the first Open Heart Surgery in black Africa was performed at UNTH on Feb. 1, 1974, by our indigenous staff, with the collaboration of a renowned heart surgeon, Prof. Magdi Yacoub,” he said.
Amah said that UNTH was a leading centre for open heart surgery, adding that no fewer than 95 of such surgeries had been done in the hospital from 2013 to date, with more than 90 per cent success.
The director appealed to the state government to collaborate with UNTH to make the treatment of heart-related ailments affordable to helpless Nigerian children.
Responding, Ugwuanyi said that the state government would do its best to support the children in dire need.
“These children are helpless and there is a reason for God to allow us occupy this leadership position. If their parents cannot help them, then we should come in and help.”
NAN reports that Ugwuanyi made a donation of N5 million to assist the children who were undergoing surgery and paid the hospital bills of indigent patients held back by the hospital management for their inability to settle their bills.