Saving the Hearts of Little Heroes

The Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital (NMCH) has partnered with Abbott’s Little Heroes campaign to fix defects in the hearts of children admitted at the facility. Little Heroes is an international campaign and a first in Europe by the global healthcare company dedicated to supporting children born with congenital heart defects. 

The launch involved procedures to fix defects in children at the hospital’s state-of-the-art Catheterisation laboratory (Cath lab), from 29 July – 02 August, and will be implemented in other countries including Ethiopia and Israel. 

Two-year-old Thato from Katlehong was the first beneficiary of the initiative. Thato was diagnosed with a patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) a condition that affects the blood vessel connecting the aorta (body vessel) with the pulmonary artery (lung vessel). Head of Cardiology at NMCH, Professor Hopewell Ntsinjana explains, “This channel is important prior to birth to allow oxygen-rich blood from the mother to circulate to the foetus’s body. Normally the vessel closes shortly after birth. If it does not close, oxygen-rich blood can mix with oxygen-poor blood, placing strain on the heart.”

Thato’s mother Queen Mabuyangwa is relieved Thato has undergone the procedure. “Thato would have fevers and shortness of breath. Her heart would pump so hard I could feel it. Now I don’t have to worry about her heart giving her problems anymore, she will live a normal life.” Queen says. 

CEO of NMCH, Dr Mandisa Maholwana says of the partnership, “Our hospital has made a concerted effort to highlight cardiac defects in children this past month. We’ve collaborated with various partners to support our patients and raise further awareness around these conditions. We are proud to be associated with  Abbott’s Little Heroes initiative and for the lives that have already been changed for the better as part of this initiative.”

According to studies, congenital heart defects are the most common birth defect in the world and approximately 1.35 million babies worldwide are born with a heart defect but have limited access to care especially in developing countries. The Cardiology department at NMCH offers specialist services including surgical (invasive) and non-surgical (minimally invasive) procedures. “Our department works within an interdisciplinary team of specialists supported by nurses, allied health professionals, radiological services, anaesthesiology and intensive care units, among others, to ensure that we provide holistic care to our patients.” 

PDA, in particular, is treated through a catheter-based procedure through the groin which is minimally invasive thus avoiding open-heart surgery. Through the campaign, Abbott provided support with devices which are implanted in the PDA during the procedure and remain there permanently in the patient’s heart. 

As a global healthcare company, Abbott is committed to research and development of life-changing technologies for babies and children with heart problems. Every year, more than 1 million babies are born with serious heart defects. 9 out of 10 children are living in countries without access to the specialized care they need to survive. Therefore we partner with organizations such and physicians dedicated to giving these children the best possible treatment. And to give them the chance to grow up and reach their full potential.

Thato will be discharged from the hospital today, her mother expressed her gratitude. “I wish they could do this for other children and lend a helping hand to other parents who are dealing with the same thing,” Queen says.