By Sola OGUNDIPE
WHAT started as a bad dream for 23-year-old Doris several yeals ago ended on a joyful note Tuesday last week when she successfuly went through an open-heart surgical operation at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja.
The life-saving procedure was necessay to close up a hole in her heart. Doris was born with the abnormailty described in medical parlance as Atrial septal defect (ASD). Dr. Bode Falase, the cardioplastic surgeon who led the medical team through the one and a half hour surgery described ASD as a form of congenital heart defect that enables blood flow between the left and right upper chambers (atria) of the heart via the interatrial septum – a tissue that divides the right and left atria.
Last week, Good Health Weekly featured a save-our-soul story entitled “Doris, hole-in-the-heart patient needs N1.5 million to stay alive”. Coincidentally, the story was published on the day or her operation. When visited in the hospital ward where she is recuperating, Doris who was in high spirits, expressed gratitude to all who contributed towards her successful surgical operation.
In a chat, Falase said: “We saw her a couple of weeks ago, she was referred and after investigations, we found she had a hole in the heart, or an atrial septum defect (ASD). After discussion with her and her family, we advised that it was necessary to have the defect closed because if it was not closed, she was at risk of developing heart failure later on in life. In fact by the time we saw her, she was getting quite breathless and a bit limited in her activities. She was already getting some symptoms.”
Falase, an experienced cardiologist who came in from the United Kingdom, noted that at the moment, the cost for the kind of operation Doris has had is N1.5 million.
“That is about $7,000 and it is still actually cheaper than what it would cost in the US and in the UK, where the average heart operation costs about 12,000 pounds; in the US it is about $18,000; in India, these surgeries cost $7,000 – $8,000, and with the added cost of having to travel.” He said for most patients in Nigeria, the challenge has not been that of availability of treatment, but that of raising funds for the surgery.
“When we saw Doris three weeks ago, we estimated the cost of her surgery at N1.5 million. The family pleaded that they could not raise the money. We do not want too run the risk of driving patients away because they are unable to pay, so we asked them whay they could afford. They said they could not afford more that N500,000. We askled them to go ahead and the money was raised by late Friday (October 22). On Tuesday (October 26) the surgery was carried out and Doris is doing very well. We are contemplating getting her home in the next few days.”
Falase said Doris was not high risk because she had not had the disorder for too long. “Assuming she waited another 20 or 30 years before coming to us, certainly more damage would have been done to her heart and this would push up the risk of the operation. What we are trying to do id to encourage patients to come early for treatment early so that we can assess them and the risk of surgery is low.
“We assessed Doris and the risk of closing the hole in her heart was very low. The chances of deathfor closing up a hole in the heart is about 1-2 percent. If she had a more severe heart defect, we would have told her. She would have been told about the risk and it would have been up to her to accept or reject that risk.
Dr. Michael Sanusi, a cardiovascular surgeon who assisted with the operation described Doris’atrial septum defect as one of the simpler congenital heart defects that can be repaired. “Usually patients repaired at a young age do very well. Even though Doris is over 20 years old we expect she would do very well because her heart has not been damaged substantially. The surgey went smoothly, everything went like clockwork. We are very happy with the progress. She was dependent on the heart-lung machine for about 1 hour 20 minutes. We stopped the heart completely for just over 40 minutes co we could do the repair.
•If you contributed towards Doris’ operation, kindly send details to 08098898003 for acknowledgement.