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A ‘heart’ first for Province

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“The big blood vessel that leaves the heart, which houses the valve, started dilating. We replaced the dilated blood vessel and the valve.”

RECOVERING: The 37-year-old patient from Postmasburg recovering after receiving a heart bypass. The patient was operated on by Dr Richard Schulenburg (below). Picture: Danie van der Lith

AFTER opening its doors in Kimberley less than eight months ago, Lenmed Hospital was the site yesterday of the first ever heart bypass surgery in the city and the Northern Cape.

The 37-year-old patient from Postmasburg, who was operated on by Cardiac and Thoracic Surgeon, Dr Richard Schulenburg, was yesterday reported to be in a stable condition after his surgery earlier in the day.

“The procedure went very well, the patient is awake and talking,” Schulenburg said after the three-and-a-half hour operation.

According to Schulenberg, the patient was born with a congenital valve lesion, which started leaking a few years ago.

“The big blood vessel that leaves the heart, which houses the valve, started dilating. We replaced the dilated blood vessel and the valve.”

Schulenberg added that the patient was “recovering very well”.

“There is no longer any leaks in his heart and he will have a normal quality of life. He was operated on early enough, however, he will need to take blood thinning medication.

“Unfortunately we could not repair the valve as it was too damaged and needed to be replaced.”

The heart team involved in the yesterday’s procedure included the cardiologist, who sees the patient and diagnoses him, the heart surgeon (Schulenberg), who performs the operation, a cardiac anaesthetic, Dr Ridwaan Syed, (described by Schulenberg as “a super specialist, an intensivist cardiac anaesthetic”), who does the anaesthetic and is involved in the postoperative management, a cardiac perfusionist, who runs the cardiopulmonary bypass machine (when the heart is stopped and a machine takes over the function of the heart and lungs while the defect is fixed), Maryna Fulls, and the nursing team in theatre and in post-op.

“Everyone is integral to the success of a heart unit,” Schulenberg said. “We are quite a young dynamic new heart unit in Kimberley and we have started off very well and have big plans for the future.”

He added that four other cases have been lined up for next week.

“The unit is going very well. It’s a high quality service and the results speak for themselves. It is still early days, we have only done one heart and 10 cardiac catheterization (cath lab) procedures. We pride ourselves, however, on practicing high quality surgery and have every reason to believe this will be a very successful unit,” he added.

“It is very exciting as this is a first for the Province. Patients with heart diseases in this Province have not had the option previously to be treated in their own Province and now they have that option. The population has taken to this unit like fire.

“Our first surgery has gone well and we hope that all those in the future will go just as well. It is all about quality. We are a cardiac team that makes decisions together so there is 24-hour service available for all emergencies and all elective work.”

Schulenberg added that the cath lab was also operating well. “We waited for the right time for the heart unit because there is a lot of preparation that goes into getting a heart unit up to standard before you start.

“We spent a lot of time developing this unit, training the staff and getting everything ready for the first case and it all paid off because it went off very smoothly.”

The R400 million Lenmed Hospital opened its doors in Kimberley in July last year, bringing with it many previously unavailable medical services to the city, including a state of the art radiation therapy treatment system, the Elekta Synergy Platform.

Before the commissioning of the system, there were no radiotherapy services in the Northern Cape and patients had to travel to Bloemfontein or Johannesburg to receive treatment for a variety of cancers.