Posted on 26 April, 2015

First the tiny patients of the local cardiologists arrived.

Then the patients of other doctors started appearing.

And then, as news spread that the Open Heart International East Africa team was in Mwanza, worried mothers started appearing, carrying their frail babies wrapped securely on their backs, cradled in colourful fabric.


They came in hope that the volunteer team, gathered from around Australia, could help their child through surgery which is simply out of reach for most families in Tanzania. There is only one qualified paediatric cardiac surgeon in the entire country – and changing that is one of the major aims of the project.

The team is here to help a young Mwanza-based doctor Godwin Dr Godwin Sharau and his team to gather valuable experience in surgery with the goal of establishing an independent and self-sufficient paediatric cardiac surgery program.

Sadly, there are so many tiny patients to choose from. More than 30 present, either by referral or on spec to the screening team, including project leader and Cardiologist Andrew Bullock and Mwanza-based Antke, who has worked at Mwanza’s Bungando Medical Centre for more than five years to establish a cardiac residency program.


The surgical list is chosen carefully – not only to select patients who will most benefit from the surgery, but to allow the local team to perform a range of surgical procedures to broaden their experience.

With the list full, the team’s various groups – Surgical, Intensive Care, and Ward staff came together to report on their preparedness for surgery. Always a complex logistical and coordination challenge, the nature of this project means the process has been particularly challenging.

Team members have arrived over the course of a week, some carrying supplies and equipment to bolster the supplies left from last year’s visit, and the hospital’s resources.

The availability of resources helps prioritise the surgery list, and the first patients are selected for surgery tomorrow, ANZAC Day.


Tags:  East Africa,