This September saw the opening of the first cardio-paediatric unit at the Luxembourg Mother-Child Hospital in the Malian capital. The unit, fully compliant with international standards, has benefited from a donation of around two million euros from the Chaîne de l'Espoir, a French charitable association. The first heart surgery, performed on a 6-year-old girl with a heart defect, took place on September 10th, 2018.
It was conducted by a team of 8 people including one French and two Malians. Professor Olivier Baron from the Nantes Hospital Centre told RFI that "two surgeries were performed on September 10th and two more the next day. The first one was symbolic. But what is even more pleasing is the fact that the second one was performed by Malian doctors like Brehim Coulibaly assisted by Ibrahima Diarra with a Malian technician. The challenge was to show that the structure is up and we have managed to make it work."
The wish is to treat over 50 children by the end of December, although more than 2500 children with heart defects are on the waiting list in Mali. "There is no cardiac surgery in Bamako because it is very expensive and requires a high level of technical expertise," says Professor Olivier Baron. "We quickly came up with the idea of transferring training skills and setting up hospitals in developing countries to better provide training. Bamako is home to the second heart unit after Dakar", he added.
Founded by cardiac surgeon Alain Decoche in 1988 under the auspices of the NGO Médecins du Monde, Chaîne de l'Espoir plans to train surgeons and caregivers who can handle patients independently within two to three years. According to Baba Diarra, a Malian surgeon, "it is an immense relief and even a boon that such a structure is, for the first time ever, installed in Mali. Only a small number of patients can afford to go to Europe and gain access to heart surgery. Parents who thought their children were doomed by heart disease, are now hopeful at the opening of this paediatric cardiac care unit."
Fanta Diarra, the girl who underwent the first operation, said she is pleased to have received the treatment. She told AFP, "I am very happy to be operated, I will be like other children. In future I will be able to work and get married.”
The former Malian president, Amadou Toumani Touré, left his Senegalese exile to inaugurate the new medical unit in Bamako. He applauded those who had the wish that children with heart problems could be cared for in Mali and who made the dream come true.