Golden Heart kids
Mariam (left), 5, after successfully undergoing a heart surgery under the Golden Heart Initiative at a hospital in Egypt; Eleven-month-old Mouheb, from Libya, who was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect, was one of the first beneficiaries of the Golden Heart Initiative at a hospital in Tunis. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Ten children from the MENA region have undergone free life-saving heart surgeries under the Golden Heart Initiative announced in the UAE.

These children from Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia are among the first recipients of the initiative that is offering 50 free paediatric heart surgeries to those from conflict zones and underprivileged backgrounds, the organisers of the initiative announced on Thursday.

The initiative is a unique tribute to Indian business tycoon MA Yusuffali’s 50 years in the UAE. It was announced by Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, founder and chairman of Burjeel Holdings, and son-in-law of Yusuffali, chairman of Lulu Group International, on the New Year’s Day, a day after the latter marked 50 years of arriving in the UAE.

Life-saving surgery for infant

Eleven-month-old Mouheb from Libya, diagnosed with the daunting congenital heart defect “Tetralogy of Fallot”, has become one of the first beneficiaries of the initiative to find renewed hope and a chance at a healthier future.

Tunis Mouheb with mum heart-1706779533328
Eleven-month-old Mouheb, from Libya, with his mum. He who was diagnosed with the congenital heart defect known as 'Tetralogy of Fallot', and underwent surgery at a hospital in Tunisia under the Golden Heart Initiative in the UAE. Image Credit: Supplied

Dr Mourad Hakim, Mouheb’s doctor, recalled the severity of his condition.

“Upon Mouheb’s initial visit to my outpatient clinic, he displayed frequent cyanotic spells, signalling a critical state. Immediate surgery was imperative, as any delay could worsen the infant’s condition, resulting in heightened cyanosis – a bluish discoloration of the skin and mucous membranes due to insufficient oxygen in the blood – and heart hypertrophy, posing considerable challenges for the surgical outcome,” explained Dr Hakim.

Facing financial constraints and the complexities of living in a conflict zone in Libya, Mouheb’s parents, Abdelrazak Mohammed and Mawaddah, weathered the storm for their child.

Fortunately, the initiative came as a huge relief and the family made the journey from Libya to Tunisia to get this life-saving surgery.

At Clinic Taoufik, under the Taoufik Hospitals Group, they had access to surgery and comprehensive care, all provided free of charge and in a remarkably short timeframe.

“We were waiting to meet the finances for the surgery for several months. But with the help of this initiative, we were able to get this surgery done in one week. We pray to God Almighty to heal our son and allow him to live a normal life like his peers,” said Abdelrazak, who works in the healthcare sector in Libya.

Ray of hope

For Madlin and Medhat, parents of five-year-old Mariam from Egypt, the Golden Heart Initiative brought a glimmer of hope into their lives.

Due to Mariam’s noticeable stunted growth and smaller stature, which became a source of bullying and challenges in her life, they decided to seek medical advice. It was during this consultation that doctors identified a complex atrial septal defect (ASD) as the underlying issue, which could not be treated with conventional catheterisation procedures and instead required major surgery.

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Mariam, 5, with her father after she successfully underwent a heart surgery under the Golden Heart Initiative at a hospital in Egypt. Image Credit: Supplied

The surgery was conducted at Nile Badrawi Hospital, one of the facilities of Cleopatra Hospitals Group in Egypt.

Mariam’s doctors, Dr Mahmoud Shehata, consultant of Paediatric Cardiology, and Prof Dr Ahmed Afifi, consultant of Cardiac Surgery, said the team’s swift decision to opt for surgical intervention has helped avert potential complications in the child’s future. According to Prof Afifi, delaying the surgical intervention would have complicated her health further.

Open heart patch surgery

“We performed an ASD open heart patch surgery to repair the septal defect. We now expect Mariam to lead a better quality of life with her appetite and activity levels returning,” said Prof Afifi, the surgeon behind Mariam’s successful procedure.

The parents are overwhelmed with the care their daughter has received and have expressed their gratitude to everyone involved in the Golden Heart Initiative.

Medhat, Mariam’s father, said, “We are very thankful to the Golden Heart Initiative for treating Mariam and making her as healthy as her sisters. Now she can finally enjoy a normal and healthy life.”

Touching 10 lives

The other children who have undergone life-saving surgeries under the initiative are between 10 months to nine years old.

Elias and Al Teriki from Libya, Chaabani and Oueslati from Tunisia and Karas, Marvy, Nour, and Mohamed from Egypt are among those who have benefitted from the Golden Heart Initiative.

Commenting on the impact of the initiative, Dr Shamsheer said: “We are proud to see that the Golden Heart Initiative is contributing to a healthier and brighter future for these little ones. Across countries, we are identifying patients in need, ensuring that this initiative extends its healing touch to those who need it the most.”