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Baby with 'half a heart' survives, thanks to Dubai NGOs

Saman Haziq/Dubai
Filed on August 17, 2019 | Last updated on August 17, 2019 at 09.55 am

(Supplied)

A team of paediatric cardiac specialists at SGRH examined Staish and found that half of her heart was missing from birth.

Two-year-old Staish Azad Khalil was born in conflict zone Erbil, the capital city of Iraqi Kurdistan that has been in turmoil since the late 2003. Danger could be everywhere but Staish's mum soon noticed something that she thought posed a greater threat to the baby's life.

When Staish was just three months old, she started turning blue occasionally, her mother had observed.

Doctors found that the baby was suffering from a complex congenital heart problem. And for her to stay alive, a heart surgery was required urgently.

Her condition deteriorated: She would turn blue frequently, finding it hard to breathe properly. Her family, like many others in the zone, was struggling. They lost their homes and many of their loved ones - and they had no financial support to go ahead with the surgery.

This is where Bring Hope Humanitarian Foundation (BHHF) - a Swedish-based NGO with an international branch in Dubai - stepped in. The organisation teamed up with Dubai-based corporate social responsibility (CSR) firm The Lighthouse Cohort (TLC) to launch 'Heart of Hope'in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The initiative had a clear goal: To go beyond the implementation of existing paediatric surgeries. During its first phase, Heart of Hope focused on heart surgeries.

"We wanted to make a well-informed, process-driven effort to improve timely access to tertiary healthcare services in post-conflict scenarios," Aishwarya Joshi, project consultant for BHHF, told Khaleej Times.

"The project aims to provide better collateral support to beneficiaries; address the existing waiting list of children through rapid assessments; and identify deserving children aged 0 to 10 years that belong to the refugee, IDP and helpless local communities. The project is aligned with permissions and support from Ministry of Health in Erbil."

After relevant medical and legal assessments, three officially approved cases were sent to India, in partnership with Indian NGO Diya Global Foundation (DGF), also licensed with Dubai International Humanitarian City.

Along with Staish, two other minors from Erbil - seven-year-old Naveen Yaseen and eight-month-old Bushra, both suffering from advanced stage cardiac diseases - were shortlisted for the free surgeries to be conducted at the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital (SGRH) in New Delhi. However, Bushra passed away on the day her visa and ticket approval came.

'Half of her heart was missing'

A team of paediatric cardiac specialists at SGRH examined Staish and found that half of her heart was missing from birth.

After echocardiography and cardiac catheterisation studies, it was ensured that a surgical option could be offered.

Staish underwent the first stage of her procedure without any complications and was discharged within a week.

She flew back home to celebrate the holy festival of Eid with the rest of her family and would come back for the last and final stage of her surgery after four years.

Naveen was declared a 'medically manageable patient' and once therapy was successfully established, she would also be deemed fit to fly back home.

"Such collaborative efforts between two international non-profit organisations, along with unconditional guidance, hospitality and willingness to support, are a welcome step," Abdul Kareem Mohammed Yaseen, Naveen's father, said in a testimonial.

The successful pilot of the project for poor Iraqi communities has fueled the efforts of BHHF, DGF and TLC not just to facilitate the treatment of these "forgotten children of war", but also extend their future reach to more internally displaced people and refugee children.

The SGRH also promised to be instrumental in expanding these efforts and making them more efficient, in terms of screening children in Erbil and training interested doctors.

saman@khaleejtimes.com


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