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Saving little hearts – Rotary Club of Colombo Metropolitan

The Rotary Club of Colombo Metropolitan, in collaboration with Gift of Life International and Gift of Life Sri Lanka, has facilitated the surgeries of a total of 50 Sri Lankan children with congenital heart disease. The patients have been successfully operated on and have since returned home to their families with hope of a happy and healthy future.
The project was made possible courtesy of the primary collaboration between Gift of Life International and Gift of Life Sri Lanka, the Rotary Club of Colombo Metropolitan, District 3220, Rotary Newton, District 7475, and independent donor Herz Bewegt, allowing these children access to this much-needed life-saving surgery. 

Speaking with Rotary Club of Colombo Metropolitan Past President and Current District Secretary for District 3220 Dinali Dandeniya, who took the lead on the project, she shared that this is an incredibly personal cause for her, as she too suffered from congenital heart disease as a child, and she feels deeply about those children who would be unable to have access to the medical care she was so fortunately afforded. Having been born in the UK, she was given free access to the life-saving surgery she needed – and now the Rotary Club of Colombo Metropolitan is able to do the same for some of these children. 

Dandeniya shared that this Rotary Foundation-approved global grant was a much-needed relief to address the lack of resources that Sri Lanka is experiencing with regard to the sheer number of children suffering from congenital heart disease. Moreover, the grant was subsequently provided to 50 Sri Lankan children who were included in the lengthy waiting list at Lady Ridgeway Hospital in Colombo. 

She shared that due to the backlog of patients awaiting surgery at Lady Ridgeway Hospital, there would be many of these children who would have to wait too long to gain access to the surgery they need. She added that if patients grow into adulthood without addressing the illness at its early stage, it could potentially develop into a far more serious, and at times, fatal, condition. 

These children will be treated by local healthcare professionals at three private hospitals – Nawaloka Hospital, Asiri Hospital, and Lanka Hospital in Colombo – at a pre-negotiated amount, and the doctors who would be attending to the surgeries are the same who would have otherwise handled the matter via the government institution. Lady Ridgeway Hospital collaborated with the three partner hospitals to recommend and select 50 paediatric patients for the paediatric cardiac surgery. Lady Ridgeway Hospital also provided follow-up care to each patient post-operatively to ensure they are on the road to a comfortable recovery.

Lady Ridgeway Hospital referred patients for treatment under the four cardiothoracic surgeons who work at the hospital, as well as at the private hospitals where the surgeries will take place – Dr. Kanchana Singappuli, Dr. Y.M.K. Lahie, Dr. P. Rathnayaka, and Dr. Renuka Kannangara. All surgeries and post-operative care was provided at no cost to the families and children undergoing care. 

Dandeniya added that Gift of Life Sri Lanka worked directly with each of the four hospitals, visiting the children and their families when able to collect all data for monitoring and evaluation of the project, including photos of each child treated. They subsequently provided regular updates on the children treated and the general progress of the grant on a regular basis to all partners. 

As per the project, Asiri Surgical Hospital and Nawaloka Hospital provided life-saving heart surgery to 20 children each, while Lanka Hospital provided surgeries for 10 children, successfully. Dandeniya stated that they provided excellent pre-op, surgical, post-op, and follow-up care for each patient.

She also stated that the Rotary Club of Colombo Metropolitan does not wish for this to be a one-time project, sharing that they wish to lend a hand in the proposed new wing “Little Hearts” at Lady Ridgeway – a dedicated wing for children suffering from congenital heart disease, which is a project that is currently in the works. The Rotary Club is looking to partner with the project and lend their assistance. If you wish to get involved, Dandeniya encourages you to please do get in touch through their many social media channels that are open to the general public. 

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