Athaliah Reynolds, Staff Reporter
Madline Faisca, Intensive Care Unit nurse at the Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital in Florida, comforts five-month-old Niles Simpson hours after he received open heart surgery at the University Hospital of the West Indies yesterday. William 'Bunny Rugs' Clarke, spokesperson for the Jamaican Children's Heart Fund, and Susan Mahfood, of the Motion Dance and Fitness Centre, look on. - Norman Grindley/Acting Photography Editor
The lives of six terminally ill children were saved after they received open-heart surgery through the efforts of the Jamaican Children's Heart Fund Inc (JCHF), a non-profit organisation based in Florida.
A team of surgeons from the Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital in Hollywood, Florida, performed the life-saving surgeries free of cost on Thursday and Friday at the University Hospital of the West Indies' Special Intensive Care Unit in St Andrew.
would not live long
Lead surgeon, Joe DiMaggio, told The Gleaner that without surgery the children would not live for very long.
"They all probably wouldn't have been here next year when we came back. They would have become inoperable and then gradually their oxygen levels would have become lower and lower and they would have died," he said.
The doctors, who have been making annual trips to the island for the last 13 years, were brought in a second time this year due to the urgency of the cases. They were last in Jamaica in April.
All the children had holes between the pumping chambers of their hearts, informed Dr DiMaggio. The surgeries, he said, involved placing a patch, made from their own tissues, in the holes to make sure blood circulated appropriately between the two pumping chambers of their hearts.
"One of the children had a special type of heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot, where not only was there a hole in the heart, but the main blood vessel leading to the lungs was obstructed," he said.
"We have repaired that obstruction and the child is now pink again."
lead normal lives
Dr DiMaggio said with heart surgery all the children would go on to lead normal lives.
The surgical team has provided this life-saving service for a total of 136 Jamaican children over the years.
William 'Bunny Rugs' Clarke, JCHF spokesperson and reggae singer, said there were presently 300 children in Jamaica who are in need of heart surgery. He said there was serious need for more funds so similar services could be provided for these children.
"The more money they have, the more missions they can do," he said
In some cases, patients have to wait up to nine years for surgery, according to the JCHF.