- Twelve-year-old Sanjay Johnson’s return to training in late April, in preparation for the 1500-metre race at the just-concluded primary school athletics championship, could almost be described a miraculous.
- About a week earlier, he had undergone surgery at the Bustamante Hospital for Children to fix a hole in his heart.
- Normally, such a procedure would require that the patient be hospitalised for weeks then undergo further recovery at home.
Twelve-year-old Sanjay Johnson’s return to training in late April, in preparation for the 1500-metre race at the just-concluded primary school athletics championship, could almost be described a miraculous.
About a week earlier, he had undergone surgery at the Bustamante Hospital for Children to fix a hole in his heart.
Normally, such a procedure would require that the patient be hospitalised for weeks then undergo further recovery at home.
However, thanks to the catheterisation technology available at the hospital, Sanjay was up and about and back to training in no time.
The Zion Hill Primary School student was successfully treated in the US$1.5-million biplane cardiac catheterisation laboratory at the new Paediatric Cardiac Unit, which officially opened on April 15.
Between April 8 and 12, a volunteer medical mission team from the United Kingdom (UK), organised through Chain of Hope, performed procedures on children suffering from congenital heart conditions in the unit, alongside a local cardiac team.
Ten children were successfully treated using cardiac catheterisation, while another four underwent surgery in the unit.
Like Sanjay, 19-month-old Kishawn benefited from catheterisation at the new facility to correct a congenital heart condition.
His mother, Ingrid Scully, says she realised that something was wrong when Kishawn was just days old.
“He was being treated for an infection at May Pen Hospital where he was born, and they realised that he was crying until he turned blue. From there they took him to Bustamante Hospital and did an echocardiogram,” she notes.
She says that since then, she has “been going back and forth” to the hospital and was grateful when the decision was made for the corrective procedure to be done.
Ms. Scully is now optimistic about her son’s future.
“I feel relieved. I was really stressed out. He was there not putting on any weight and I was really concerned. When they took him in for the procedure, I was a bit worried… but thanks be to God, everything was successful. I am hoping that his development will improve now,” she says.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Chain of Hope, Emma Scanlan, explains that through the interventional catheter procedure, the “surgery team goes in through the groin and they can close some holes in the heart using devices without having to do open heart surgery. That is done by a cardiologist and an interventional cardiac surgeon”.
Visiting Cardiologist, Dr. John Thompson, tells JIS News that biplane catheterisation is used in children “because by and large their hearts are complicated”. He explains that the biplane technology is more efficient at giving views of the heart. “The problems we see in children are a lot more complicated than in adults, and biplane allows us to see pictures in two different views for the same amount of contrast (ink).
“So, when we take a picture of the inside of the heart, we have to give contrast, which is an agent that outlines the heart, and there’s a limit to how much contrast you can give, and if you have biplane, you cut in half the number of injections of contrast,” he explains.
“Instead of having to do many pictures with one plane we do two at once. It saves radiation, it saves contrast and it allows us to develop a better picture of a more complicated heart,” he notes further.
Consultant Paediatric Cardiologist at the Bustamante Hospital, Dr. Sharonne Forrester, tells JIS News that the new cardiac unit makes “a big difference” in treating paediatric heart patients.
“We cater to children who are born with congenital heart defects that are abnormalities within the heart. In addition to open-heart surgery, we do diagnostic and interventional procedures. These include fixing small holes.
“Previously, these patients would go to the surgeons and require open-heart surgery and be left with a scar on their chest and would stay longer in hospital. But doing it in the cardiac catheterisation lab, they have no scar and they go home the following day. It is less time intensive and within a few days the children are up and about,” she says.
Dr. Forrester explains that before the facility was opened, the team would use the facility at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UWI). “Our team would take the patients there along with the disposables and the equipment that we would need to use, so having the lab on site makes it easier to manage the patients,” she explains.
She notes that there is a backlog of patients waiting for both surgery and cardiac catheterisation, “so having this unit where we have our own theatre and we are not competing with the other surgical services would allow us to operate more often in a more consistent manner, and so it would benefit our patients and, hopefully, we can clear our backlog”.
The new Paediatric Cardiac Unit, including the catheterisation laboratory, was funded by the Shaggy Make a Difference Foundation, Chain of Hope, Rotary International and Gift of Life Incorporated.
Shaggy and Friends, through the staging of concerts, raised half of the money for the lab, which was about US$700,000.
The cardiac centre also facilitates open-heart surgeries, which are done in the dedicated cardiac operating theatre. The patients are then moved to the cardiac Intensive Care Unit (ICU), which is to be expanded. Meanwhile, Chain of Hope, which has been sending missions to Jamaica for the past 20 years, continues to work with various stakeholders to develop the country’s first paediatric cardiac service that is run by Jamaicans.
Ms. Scanlan says that members of the cardiology and cardiac anaesthesia teams were flown to London for training, through co-funding from Gift of Life Inc. Teams have also been sent to Jamaica to train personnel locally such as radiographers for the catheterisation lab.
A cardiac nurse training programme was also developed in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
Ms. Scanlan notes that with 400 children born every year with heart defects, there is constant need for support in order to facilitate treatment.
Founder of the Shaggy Make a Difference Foundation, Orville ‘Shaggy’ Burrell, tells JIS News that he is happy with the progress that has been made in making the cardiac centre a reality. “It feels good. We are saving lives, and when you see the number of children that have been helped it makes it all worth it,” he says. He notes that the project has been nine years in the making and was influenced by his interaction with a “little girl whose situation told me that I needed to do something”.
“We set up a foundation under the guidance of William Mahfood of Food For the Poor, and we have been working on trying to expand the ICU. We are currently in discussions about land acquisition so that we can build,” he says, noting that subsequent concerts will be dedicated to this purpose.