Ana Clarita Life-Saving Trip
14-year old Ana Clarita from East Timor was not expected to live beyond the next few months without her life-saving mitral valve procedure at MonashHeart, Monash Health on 17th July, 2014.
Unfortunately, as East Timor is one of the poorest countries in Asia, its healthcare services are scarce with no specialist cardiac facilities. Darwin paediatric cardiologist Dr Bo Remenyi visited East Timor on one of his regular medical missions for Rotary Oceania Medical Aid for Children (ROMAC) and performed an echocardiogram on Ana Clarita. Dr Remenyi diagnosed critical mitral stenosis, or narrowing of the mitral valve, almost stopping the blood from flowing within Ana Clarita’s heart. Ana Clarita had suffered rheumatic fever as a child which, without basic antibiotic treatment in her country, had developed into rheumatic heart disease, damaging her mitral valve.
Ana Clarita was very weak, having trouble breathing on walking just a few metres and suffering dizziness. Her appetite was poor and she had lost weight. Dr Remenyi sought urgent help from East Timor Hearts Fund, Australia’s only medical aid charity dedicated to providing life-saving surgery for young Timorese with heart disease. Ana’s mitral valve was so badly affected that East Timor Hearts Fund honorary medical advisor Dr Noel Bayley deemed it necessary she have a mitral valve procedure as soon as possible.
Dr Bayley corresponded urgently with Professor Richard Harper at MonashHeart, where such procedures for East Timorese patients, assisted by East Timor Heart Fund, have been performed for a number of years (click here to see other East Timor patient stories).
The requisite approvals and visa’s were hastily arranged for Ana Clarita, and she arrived in Melbourne on a cold winter’s day.
It was on his first consultation of Ana Clarita that Professor Richard Harper appreciated the gravity of her precarious health situation and the team prepared for a risky procedure (Per-cutaneous Mitral Balloon Valvuloplasty), with the open heart surgery team on standby if the procedure it did not progress as planned.
Thankfully the procedure was an outstanding success and went very well. Within hours Ana Clarita was back in the cardiac care unit feeling so much better. She was discharged the next day and when the East Timorese community took her to a restaurant and asked her what she would like to eat she replied “everything”!
A week later Ana Clarita delighted staff by returning to Monash Medical Centre to thank the team, all smiles and feeling fantastic.
Professor Richard Harper with Ana Clarita
To donate to East Timor Heart Fund and help young East Timorese people access state-of-the-art, life-saving cardiac procedures and surgery in Melbourne, please go to http://www.givenow.com.au/easttimorhearts