Free Open Heart Surgery Gives Cambodian Children New Life

Penang Adventist Hospital provided free heart surgery for three Cambodian children last we

Penang, Malasia | Bettina Krause / ANN

Penang Adventist Hospital provided free heart surgery for three Cambodian children last week, setting in motion what hospital chief executive Teddric Mohr calls a “miracle project.” The three girls, aged two, five and seven, were the first of 19 needy children who will be flown to Penang to receive the life-giving corrective heart surgery. This “Gift of Life” program was set up by the hospital late last year to provide free open heart surgery to Cambodian children who would otherwise be unable to afford the US$4,000-plus operation.

“A whole bunch of miracles have helped bring this project together,” says Mohr, who points to the financial support given by both local and New York Rotary Clubs, and corporate sponsors Malaysian Airlines, who provided free transport, and Hewlett Packard, who supplied a cardio-echo machine and technician for the screening trip to Cambodia late last year. “Each life is precious,” Mohr told Malaysian newspaper The Star recently. “You never know if the baby you are saving is the next prime minister, Mother Theresa or a great scientist.”

Mohr initiated the Cambodian “Gift of Life” project in1999 after meeting a poverty-stricken heart patient during a business trip to Cambodia. Under the program, the children will travel from Cambodia to the hospital in groups of two to six along with their mothers and a Cambodian doctor, who will help with translation and assist in post-operative care. Renowned pediatric heart surgeon Dr. Leonard Bailey will lead a team from Loma Linda University Medical Center, located in California, to help local surgeons deal with the increase in open-heart operations due to the “Gift of Life” program. Mohr says that the hospital hopes to extend the program in the coming years to help children in the Philippines, Indonesia and Pakistan.

Since the Penang Adventist Hospital set up its heart fund for needy patients in 1998, 44 adults and 42 children have received free heart surgery. Penang Adventist Hospital was established 75 years ago and started its open-heart program in 1987. Currently nine cardiologists and two cardio-thoracic surgeons undertake as many as four open-heart surgeries per day.