AFRICA – Ten-year-old Philasande Dladla from Kwa-Zulu Natal has become the first child in Africa to receive a life-saving mechanical heart.
A surgical team led by Dr Willie Koen implanted the heart ventricular assist device (HVAD) to enable Philasande’s damaged heart to function. Philasande suffered from cardiomyopathy, a chronic heart disease resulting from a viral infection which his parents mistook for a bout of flu. The infection quickly damaged Philasande’s heart valve’s leading to heart failure. These procedures are designed to win time for Philisande who ultimately requires a heart transplant. While Philisande is on the transplant list, a suitable donor heart for a child is difficult to come by. The HVAD mechanism should enable the young Drakensberg Primary School learner who loves hockey and swimming to reach adulthood when chances of finding a donor heart are more likely.
“As far as we have been able to establish, Philasande is the first person in the world to have had both short-term and long-term mechanical heart devices implanted…”said Dr Koen who explained that Philasande had a temporary tandem mechanical heart device implanted at Netcare Milpark Hospital 6 months ago to keep Philisande’s heart functioning until the team could perform a further operation in May.
Philisande was transferred to Netcare Christiaan Bernard Memorial Hospital in Cape Town by air ambulance three weeks ago for HVAD artificial heart implantation. Artificial heart technology expert, Professor Arnt Fiane and cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr Agnetha Geldenhuys prepared with Dr Koen for the HVDA procedure.
“Many South Africans are not aware that we have such active heart transplantation and repair programmes in place, nor that South Africa remains a leader in heart medicine…”said Dr Graham Cassel, a cardiologist from Netcare Milpark Hostpital. Dr Cassel also said that the ground-breaking procedures that were performed were made possible by years of international and local collaboration. Healthware European union which developed the HVAD device announced that the first child in Africa has been implanted with a long term artificial heart device in their internal publication.
Philisande’s mother, Sindi Dladla said that he lacked energy before but is back to his old self again, making a rapid recovery. Dr Koen attributed Philisande’s survival in no small part to his parent’s determination in securing the necessary medical care.