by Ayabulela Poro
The Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital, a flagship project of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, kicked off the year with various activities at the facility, now the second dedicated children’s hospital in Southern Africa. Family-centred care remains at the heart of the hospital. While continuing to provide care to our most vulnerable, staff at the institution also championed activities aimed at raising awareness around critical illnesses facing children on the continent. This period also marked the launch of a book highlighting the journey of the hospital which began here at the Fund.
One Small Heart at a Time
In February the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital celebrated Congenital Heart Disease Week. To mark the occasion, the Cardiology Department at the hospital, hosted “Wear Red Day” and celebrated with patients and families at the Outpatient Department.
It is estimated that 1 in 120 children are born with heart disease. Head of Department, Professor Hopewell Ntsinjana said that, “Some defects are simple and correctable but if parents wait too long to seek intervention, it can cause irreversible damage. It is important that these defects be repaired with the first year because operations become riskier in older children.”
Over the past year the department has performed over 150 open-heart surgeries. Fundraising is an essential part to ensuring that the department can reach many children in need of similar care.
Read the full story covered by the Rosebank Killarney Gazette:
The journey of a parent who met a “Heart Whisperer”
The commitment of the cardiology department is evident in the party they hosted on Valentine’s Day for the children who had operations at Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital. “We have this party for them and their parents to celebrate the children who made it through,” Head of Cardiology, Prof. Ntsinjana explains.
“Children are unique individuals with unique problems and if nobody can speak up for them concerning those problems, we risk walking down a dangerous path. When a child enters the ward, the parents are crying and everybody is distressed. However, once they get well, they are up and about and high-fiving you. That makes it all worth it.”
Carley Opperman, the mother of four-month-old Cara-Lee, calls Prof. Ntsinjana “the heart whisperer”, because “he not only whispered to her heart, but also to mine”.
The family’s paediatrician sent her to the hospital to see Prof. Ntsinjana and the family almost cancelled the appointment because Cara-Lee, who was then five weeks old, was not looking sick and was only battling to drink. After examining her, Prof. Ntsinjana had to tell her parents that she was gravely ill and had to be admitted immediately. She was on the brink of heart failure.
“He gave us time to process the news and made it clear that there is not even time to get a second opinion. We had to trust people we did not even know, but everybody at the hospital made it so much easier for us. They were always hugging us and reassuring us and gave us individual attention that made us feel that Cara-Lee was the only patient there.”
Cara-Lee was one of the children attending the party to celebrate the children who went through surgery to repair their hearts. Although she could not enjoy the snacks because she is still too small, this day was for her too. And for all the parents who completed the arduous journey with them.
Looking at these children who all came to celebrate “wear your scar with pride day”, as Prof. Ntsinjana calls it, it is clear that Madiba’s dream for a hospital dedicated to children has come true.
Internal Book Launch “A Dream Realised”
founding organisations, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust (NMCHT) and Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (the Fund).
Written by authors Ulrike Hill and Zanele Chakele, “A Dream Realised – The triumphs and challenges of building a Mandela legacy” details the journey that led to the building of the second dedicated health facility for children in the region.
What began as a seed, grew from a vision to a state-of-the-art-facility offering critical care to children in the region, regardless of their socio-economic standing.
The story tells the story of key players who brought this vision to life including CEO of the Fund and NMCHT, Sibongile Mkhabela who sat on a panel to discuss the book with the authors and Dr Pinky Chirwa, Head of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, who also provided clinical inputs during the conceptual phases.
Encouraging staff who held on to the panel’s every word, Mkhabela said, “We're finished building, but we still need ambitious and visionary people. None of us can do this by ourselves.”
An external launch of the book is planned for later in the year. The book is currently available from major book retailers including Exclusive Books, Amazon. Orders can also be place on the NMCH Website.
Celebrating World Kidney Day
Shaped like beans, kidneys play a crucial role in the body including ridding it of toxins. While a kidney transplant is the best treatment for a child living with kidney failure, our dialysis unit plays a vital role in providing this treatment to children from various corners of the country awaiting transplants.
12 March is widely celebrated as World Kidney Day. This year’s theme on focused on preventing kidney disease and our dialysis unit was not one to be left out on the education drive.
Patients, together with nurses and doctors provided entertainment for staff accompanied by dietary tips to improve kidney health as well as screenings for staff.
Watch an interview by nephrologist in the Unit, Dr Tholang Khumalo, talking to the SABC’s Morning Live on this condition.
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