These children look normal but they were born with problems in their heart and two-year-old Junior Mote Konia is among them.
His mother Brenda Konia found out that he had a congenital heart disease when he was three months old. For now Junior Mote is doing well and can live a normal life.
This is after his little heart was mended after undergoing open heart surgery this week at the Port Moresby General Hospital by a team from the of Operation Heart International (OHI) Australia with the help of a local medical team.
By the end of today, Friday, a total of 33 children would have had their little hearts fixed this year through open and closed heart operations – 11 done by our local operation open heart team.
According to Brenda Konia, little Mote was born with the heart disease and was constantly visiting the hospital for regular checks. He finally got his heart scanned to travel from Chimbu Province to Port Moresby to undergo the operation this week.
“I am very happy and thankful for the OHI medical team from Australia and also the local medical team for fixing my baby’s heart,” she said.
Paediatrician cardiologist Dr Cornela Kilalang said screening of children with heart problems is done once a year in most provincial hospitals.
“This is done by getting on a plane with a portable heart scan machine and arriving to a packed clinic with anxious parents and children,” Dr Kilalang said.
“This is the only time the children get to have their heart scanned.”
Cardio thoracic surgeon Dr Noah Tapaua said this program has been going on for the past 26 years – since 1993, and is one of the successful programs in the country.
“We have progressed and are learning a lot from our friends from overseas who have passed on their skills to us.
“We have come a long way and so far have treated 1084 patients since the program started,” Dr Tapaua said.
“As we progress, we are aiming to localise this program in PMGH and the hospital is helping us in terms of infrastructure, whereby next month PNG will have its own Cath lab. We are looking forward to this achievement.”
He thanked the team from OHI Australia, the Singapore team and other donor partners for supporting this program.
OHI project coordinator Dr Darren Wolfers said his medical team was getting smaller and the local team was bigger because the PNG cardiac team have learnt a lot of skills in past visits.
“PNG cardiac team is about 50 to 60 people who are well trained and ready to take this on,” Dr Wolfers said.
“This is important because heart disease is still the number one killer in the world and a major problem in PNG, and the particular one is the heart disease in children and these are the hidden children.
He said eight in every one thousand children everywhere in the world are born with these problems.
“We have a simple job and that is to find these children and fix their hearts.”