Mohammed Khalifa Al Gamzi (centre), General Secretary, UAE Red Crescent, Salleh Mussa Al Taiee, Deputy General Secretary, and Abdullah Raweh (right), President, Italian Emirates Friendship Association, during an a press conference yesterday at UAE Red Crescent Office in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: RAVINDRANATH/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: With more than 50 under-privileged babies born with congenital heart defects a year, the UAE Red Crescent Authority (RCA) has dedicated an account to help cover heart surgery expenses for less privileged families living in the UAE.

The UAE RCA signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with an Italian hospital IRCCS Policlinico San Donato Milano, known for the emergency care in cardiovascular diseases, and for receiving 400 patients with congenital heart defects a year.

As part of the MoU, the hospital offered the UAE RCA a 50 per cent discount on heart surgeries. In the meantime, the RC has designated a bank account number for donations in order to cover the rest of the 50 per cent.

As part of the agreement 20 children residing in the UAE, with various heart defects, will start to receive free surgeries, two of whom include a three year old Bahraini female, S.R, and a four year old Sudanese baby, G.A. (Names have been initialised upon parents requests).

G.A was born with both Down syndrome, and a heart condition known as Mitral Valve Insufficiency and Stenosis - obstruction of blood flow through the valve.

Surgery

Since his family could not afford to pay for his open-heart surgery, G.A was transferred to a low-cost hospital in Jordan.

"After six strenuous hours, the surgery wasn't done properly. My son was still taking anti-heart failure tablets and was un-well. That's when you get when you don't invest in a serious surgery," Dr. A.S, his father, and a pediatrician in a UAE-based hospital told Gulf News.

A.S. took his son to various hospitals across the UAE for regular checkups since his unsuccessful surgery. "Cardiac surgeons advised me to take my son to a hospital abroad, due to the complexity of his surgery. But I couldn't afford that, until I approached the RC in Abu Dhabi in February," said A.S, who's son is due to travel to Milano sometime this week.

G.A. is the youngest child among three boys and two girls, and is born in the UAE. "My son's heart beats are so fast, he really needs the operation, and if it wasn't for the RC, I wouldn't have been able to take him to Milan. I have positive expectations that my son will be normal after surgery. He will be able to play with other kids his age and live a moderately normal life, one he surely deserves," said A.S.

Three-year-old Bahraini girl, S.R. was born with the most common congenital heart defect in a newborn, known as Ventricle Septum Defect (VSD), a defect in the septum (wall) between the right and left ventricle.

"I was asking for advice from every single hospital you can imagine, whether it was here or abroad, till I was advised to go through the RC. My daughter is due for surgery in a Dubai-based hospital in ten days. I'm optimistic and can't wait to see her in good health," said her father, R.K.

Fundraising: How to help

If you wish to help a less-privileged child with a heart defect, donations can be sent to account number 03-520-572-169-501, Dubai Islamic Bank.

"Six million children worldwide are diagnosed with heart problems. The aim of opening this account is to help some of those children who's families cannot afford to pay for their heart surgeries. It's a humanitarian cause, that we hope people will help take part in," Mohamed Khalifa Al Qamzi, Secretary General of the UAE RCA told Gulf News.