Philippine teenager flies to Sudan specialist for life-saving heart surgery

A teenager from the Philippines has been flown to Sudan to undergo life-saving surgery at a world-leading Khartoum hospital specialising in complex heart operations.

Reynaldo Nilo was diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease two years ago and his fate looked increasingly desperate until his family heard about the specialist charity-run unit in the Sudanese capital.

“I am extremely grateful to them for giving me the chance to have a longer life,” the 17-year-old said before flying out to the east African country with his elder sister Sarah Joy on Monday (June 8).

Reynaldo’s family had been unable to afford to pay for the teenager’s potentially life-saving medical treatment until his sibling Sarah chanced upon the Sudanese hospital run by Emergency, a charity renowned for its state-of-the art cardiac surgery. The charity is providing Reynaldo’s treatment free of charge.

Sarah discovered the charity online while watching an Oscar-nominated documentary about the hospital, the Salam Centre for Cardiac Surgery.

Without the open heart surgery that Reynaldo is about to undergo, most rheumatic heart disease sufferers die by the age of 20.

The young Philippine suffered from strep throat as a child. At the time, Reynaldo’s family could not afford to treat him with antibiotics, which by the age of 15 had led to near-daily breathing problems and his eventual rheumatic heart disease diagnosis.

The Salam Centre opened in 2007 and is currently the only free hospital specialising in complex heart operations in Africa, according to Emergency.

Volunteer doctors set up the charity in 1994 to provide free medical care to victims of war, landmines and poverty but have recently begun opening up their treatments to people originating from outside of the African continent.

Reynaldo will continue to receive free medication following the surgery, which will either replace or repair his heart valves.

Turkish Airlines also agreed to cover the cost of the teenager’s flights, which alone would have amounted to years of income for Reynaldo’s parents.

“We are just so happy that this foundation agreed to help us,” Nilo’s sister said. “We were afraid we would lose him.”

Image via Eric Schmuttenmaer / cc

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