Posted on Thursday 31 October 2013
Dr Simpson (right) with a patient in Sri Lanka. Photo by Tommy Reynolds
A team from Evelina London Children’s Hospital has just returned from Sri Lanka where they carried out operations on 20 children with complex heart conditions.
This was the team’s 11th visit to Sri Lanka and more than 150 children have now had life-changing surgery.
Dr John Simpson, consultant cardiologist at Evelina London Children’s Hospital, says: “We have a flourishing partnership with the Karapitya Hospital in southern Sri Lanka, who give us the opportunity to support their team and help to diagnose heart conditions and perform complex operations.
“Our visits are well known. Patients are either referred for assessment by their doctors or turn up because they have heard about our visit by word of mouth. Families have been known to sleep under shelters to wait for us, and there are always queues of parents waiting for their children to be seen.”
The Evelina London team sees patients as young as newborn babies and occasionally young adults who were born with heart conditions that were not diagnosed or treated when they were children.
Dr Simpson adds: “We assessed 120 children for heart problems and operated on 20 of them, meaning we’ve now carried out our 163rd operation led by Evelina London cardiac surgeon Conal Austin.
“The staff at Karapitiya Hospital are fantastic and we are really delighted to be able to help them with the patients that they are unable to treat. At Evelina London, we run one of the largest cardiology and heart surgery services in the UK, so we use these skills to carry out complex procedures in Sri Lanka
“It’s an honour to be able to provide free care for children desperately in need.”
The team’s first visit 11 years ago was initiated by Mr Jai Lameer, an expat Sri Lankan businessman, who died three years ago. Now the team’s visits to Sri Lanka are funded by the Take Heart charity which was set up by Gillingham Football Club Chairman, Paul Scally, after doctors at Evelina London battled to save his son who had a heart problem and sadly died in 2004.
Paul Scally says: “My son’s treatment left a lasting impression on me seeing the dedicated and compassionate work they do at Evelina London, day in and day out. For me it is an honour to now help them to help others, and I’m sure anyone who has experienced a situation similar to my own will understand my motives.”
The Evelina London team consisted of intensive care doctors and nurses from the paediatric intensive care unit, an anaesthetist, an echocardiographer, and theatre nurses.