The Ultimate Oceania Travel Guide

More children to benefit from free heart surgery

Fiji’s Sai Sanjeevani Children’s Heart Hospital has become a beacon of hope for Fijian families who have struggled to access clinical services or pay for costly open heart surgeries for children.

Now, as previously announced by The Pacific Advocate, the hospital will soon extend their services to children from other Pacific nations.

In the past eight days 22 children in Fiji, the youngest being eight months old, have undergone open heart surgeries.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) approximately one per cent of all children born globally are affected by congenital heart disease.

Visiting medical team that was lead by Dr Krishna Manohar and Dr Chellapan from India. Picture : Sai Prema Foundation Fiji

Since the hospital opened on April 27, 2022, a total of 60 free heart surgeries have been conducted by visiting medical teams from the United States and India.

The hospital’s director, Dr Krupali Tappoo reiterated the importance of utilising the free service.

“We encourage parents and other healthcare professionals to bring in their children for screening as it is free. It does not take long, it is non-invasive and helps with detection,” she said.

“Any child between the age of zero to 16 years and those identified as appropriate by the cardiologist qualify for the surgery list.”

Lusiana and her mom Losana days after her surgery. Fiji’s Sai Sanjeevani Children’s Heart Hospital has become a beacon of hope for Fijian families who have struggled to access clinical services. Picture : Losana Kaukausalaca

Eight year old Lusiana Tubalavu is eagerly awaiting to be discharged from hospital and reunited with her four siblings.

Lusiana’s mother, Losana Kaukausalaca is grateful for the service provided by the hospital. Eight years ago on Christmas Eve she lost Lusiana’s twin to heart disease.

“It wasn’t until she was six years old that Lusiana became sickly. I took her to a private doctor and we were given a referral to this hospital. At that time the Sai Sanjeevani Hospital was still being built and we were told that she could be on the list if we were lucky,” Ms Kaukausalaca said.

“I kept on praying that we would have the surgery in Fiji and we regularly came for our checkups even during COVID-19 in 2020.

“To mothers and parents out there, get your child treated if they have a heart problem. Come forward because it’s about saving their lives and their life is a gift.”

Happy eight year old Lusiana at Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeevani hospital in Nasese, Suva. Picture : Losana Kaukausalaca

The 38-year-old commended the staff at the hospital who made their two-year journey less painful.

“I am so happy and proud of the doctors and staff that work here,” Ms Kaukausalaca said.

Judith Kaimata travelled for almost five hours by sea from Rabi, an island in the North of Fiji with her one year and eight month old son Jude to Suva for his heart surgery.

“I was tired and my son was crying but we had to travel that far. And thankfully we had the nurse traveling with us,” Ms Kaimata said.

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“My husband and my nine year old daughter are excited to know that we are getting discharged.”

Dr Tappoo said the hospital is now committed to expanding its services to children in other Pacific island countries. She said a child from Papua New Guinea who was now living in Fiji had been receiving treatment at the hospital.

In September, a team of specialists from Singapore will be in Fiji to work at the hospital.

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