Tanzania: Successful Surgery Marks Major Milestone in Tanzania

LAST weekend, two major things happened in the history of heart surgery in the country, one, our local doctors together with friends from America were able to perform the first successful heart pacemaker implant to a child, and second, a life was saved.

The first ever child pacemaker implant in the country if not in East Africa at large was conducted at the Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute (JKCI) at Muhimbili National Hospital in Dar es Salaam. Led by cardiologists from a university in Virginia USA, the installation of an artificial pacemaker device in the heart of a six-year-old child from Arusha gave a child another chance to play like other children after her blood circulation came to normal.

"My daughter has been having breathing problems for quite a long time now, with her heart beat being low, she missed the chance to play with her friends because of weakness most of the time. At first we connected the problem with demons and thought that our daughter was bewitched as she appeared to be sick and weak all the time, thereon she was discovered to have a heart problem," said the child's mother happily after the successful surgery.

Dr Michael Valentine from the University of Virginia applauded JKIC cardiologists, "Congratulations to JKIC cardiologists and cardiology surgeons who made all this possible and had the insight to present the girl to us and be creative about what could be done," he said.

He further said that the procedure involved placing a pacemaker in her (patient) heart at a door chamber that will make her heart beat normally and allow her to live a normal life. "Hopefully, she will be able to live for many years," he remarked.

The patient, who had a congenital heart block and a heart rate of 28 beats per minute, was introduced to the visiting doctors for further diagnosis before the surgery.

According to him, the introduction of the patient was possible because of the availability of pediatric surgeons at the institute. Furthermore, the surgery was facilitated by the donation of devices from United States' companies. Generally, a lower heart rate at best implies more efficient heart function and better cardiovascular fitness.

A child's heart normally beats faster than an adult's; a healthy adult heart rate can range from 60 to 100 beats per minute during rest. Kids' heart rates can be as low as 60 beats per minute during sleep and as high as 220 beats per minute during strenuous physical activity.

A pacemaker is a small device that is placed in the chest or abdomen to help control abnormal heart rhythms. The device uses low-energy electrical pulses to prompt the heart to beat at a normal rate. "Normally, the heart has its own electricity that is used to pump blood to the vessels and regulate the heart beat.

Sometimes the circuit that produces electricity fails, leading to low blood circulation," said Dr Sulende Kubhoja, a pediatrician cardiologist from JKCI. "So what we did for the first time was conduct the procedure of implementing a pacemaker to this child in order to regulate the electrical systems to control her heart rhythm," he said.

According to him, the heart's artificial-battery is supposed to be replaced at least after ten years. However, the government used to meet the costs for patients who were referred for treatment abroad, but thanks to our cardiologists and American College for Cardiac doctors, the government will save the money.

"You need a pacemaker if your heart is pumping too quickly or slowly. In either case, the body does not get enough blood. This can cause fatigue, fainting or lightheadedness, shortness of breath and feel exhausted," he noted.

He, however, called upon members of the public to develop a culture of undergoing regular medical check-ups in order to have immediate treatment; yet the cardiologists informed the general public that the institution is capable of handling such complicated matters and urged them to seek for medical treatment as early as possible.

Source: Tanzania Daily News