Building Capacity to Impact Lives
In the first four years of FMIC, La Chaine de l'Espoir regularly flew in teams of foreign doctors. Their task was to operate on local patients as well to build the capacity of indigenous doctors who did not have the requisite skill sets. Post-February 2010, the surgical services at FMIC were entirely taken over by Afghan surgeons who have successfully carried out over 1,000 cardiac surgeries on infants and young children with varying degrees of complex congenital heart diseases.
In August 2013, Afghan doctors at FMIC performed a milestone cardiac operation on Yasser, an 11-month-old boy with a lethal hole in the heart. Even though he weighed a fragile 6.9 kilogrammes, Yasser’s surgery was smooth and he went home on the fifth day of his surgery, giggling in his mother’s arms.
On August 15, 2013, 11-month old Yasser was brought to FMIC by his parents with complaints of laboured breathing and stunted growth. The cardiologists quickly diagnosed him with a hole in the heart – a perimembranous ventricular septal defect (VSD) – that was preventing his blood from flowing through his heart and lungs properly.
Unlike other cardiac defects present at birth, VSDs do not improve on their own and can be life-threatening. More often than not, the defect has to be treated surgically.
Given the severity of the problem, Yasser’s case was immediately forwarded to FMIC’s cardio-thoracic surgery unit. Taking into consideration his age and size and the complexity of the heart defect, the cardiac surgery team led by Dr Najibullah Bina carried out extensive consultations with the in-house team of cardiologists, intensivists and anaesthetists.
Taking a leap of faith, Dr Bina’s team opted for a complete repair of the hole instead of the palliative surgery recommended for an infant of Yasser’s size. International studies indicate that total repair of VSDs can be performed in small infants with no difference in serious complications or mortality rates as compared to larger infants.
Yasser was hooked to a cardiopulmonary bypass machine and operated upon. The post-operative period was uneventful and he went home on the fifth day of his surgery, giggling in his mother’s arms.
Just 10 years ago, this sort of quick turnaround was only a distant possibility for Afghans. The decades-long conflict in the country had severely limited the availability of quality healthcare for complex medical needs. Young patients requiring open heart surgeries had to travel to other countries in the region for treatment.
Since 2006, FMIC has proven to be an avenue of hope and life for countless young patients from impoverished homes who cannot afford to travel to another country.
In its first four years, FMIC would have teams of doctors regularly flown in by La Chaine de l'Espoir (a French NGO) to operate on local Afghan patients. These teams would work with local doctors to build their capacity. Post-February 2010, a team of Afghan doctors has taken over surgery operations at FMIC and has successfully carried out over 1,000 cardiac surgeries on babies and young children with varying degrees of complex congenital heart diseases.