Miracle Baby Programme brings heart surgeries to children outside Klang Valley

By: Patrick Beech

In an effort to assist children with heart conditions get the surgery they need, the Miracle Baby Programme was launched recently at the Penang Hospital.

According to health director-general, Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, about 5,000 babies or eight cases per live birth are born with congenital heart problems every year and required corrective surgery.

However, he said the facilities to treat such children were limited to the Klang Valley, including the National Heart Institute.

He said the facilities can only treat 2,500 patients a year, forcing the remaining patients to seek treatment elsewhere or wait for surgery and face risks to their mobility and mortality.

The waiting time for heart surgery at Penang Hospital, the regional cardiothoracic centre in the northern peninsular, is about 10 months, with many patients referred to facilities in the Klang Valley and elsewhere.

Dr Noor Hisham said over the years, the Health Ministry had prioritised this issue and taken numerous steps to address it, including immediate and long-term solutions, such as sending patients to India for treatment in a cross-border collaboration with hospitals there.

The Miracle Baby Programme is a brilliant, out-of-the-box initiative initially mooted in 2016, leading to a site visit in 2020 and eventually resulting in a collaboration between dedicated cardiothoracic surgeons in the ministry with Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) and a team of doctors from Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeevani Hospital (SSSSH), a centre renowned for great congenital heart surgery work.

The Miracle Baby Programme pilot project started on Nov 28 and will last for two weeks.

Up to today, 12 patients have undergone surgery, including three from Sabah.

One of the beneficiaries of the Miracle Baby Programme, Eisya Marzuki, 16, said she was grateful to be given a new lease on life.

The Form Four student from SMK Hamid Khan said her health deteriorated a few months ago, where she got tired easily and had rapid heartbeats even when engaging in light activities.

"My mother took me to the doctor and it was discovered that I have a hole in the heart. I never showed any symptoms before this although I lead a very active lifestyle and take part in sports.

"I am looking forward to going back to school," she said.

Also present were Penang Health director Datuk Ma'arof Sudin, UTAR chairman Tan Sri Dr Sak Cheng Lum and SSSSH chairman Dr Sreenivas Chodagam.