" Our partnership with Save a Child’s Heart, the training we received from our mentors and ongoing medical missions working side by side, allows us to maintain our commitment to treating the children of Tanzania, providing them with the best medical care possible." - Dr. Naiz, pediatric cardiologist, Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute
Jesca is an eight-year-old girl from a small village called Likuyu-Namtumbo in the southern region of Tanzania, whose life was saved on May 12, by pediatric interventional cardiologists at our partner site, Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute (JKCI) in Dar es Salaam.
Jesca's doctors, Dr. Lijain Zhao, who is working at JKCI as part of a friendship partnership between the government of China and the government of Tanzania, Dr. Sulende Kubhoja, and the Tanzanian team in the catheterization lab utilizing the training, equipment, and techniques of their mentors, the Save a Child’s Heart medical team.
Jesca’s story begins like other children who are born with heart disease that goes undetected or untreated due to a lack of access to care, but now, because of increased access at our partner site, the Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute (JKCI), Tanzanian children like Jesca have a second chance at life.
Both born at term, the twins grew successfully until the age of two, when Jesca began to experience recurrent chest infections, fatigue, and bluish discoloration of the tongue and fingers as symptoms of a congenital heart defect. She continued to live with her symptoms and at five, began attending Likuyu Seka-Maganga Primary School. While she excelled at her studies, it was difficult for her to participate in games and extra-curricular activities since she was easily fatigued and experienced difficulty breathing. Finally, Jesca was brought to Songea Regional Referral Hospital where she was referred to the JKCI in Dar es Salaam - a long term partner site of Save a Child’s Heart - for further review and diagnosed with severe valvular pulmonary stenosis.
To fix Jesca’s heart, the team, led by Dr. Naiz Majani - Mnong’one, who spent several years in Israel training with Save a Child’s Heart developing her skills as a pediatric cardiologist, determined that Jesca would undergo cardiac catheterization. The procedure would require both know-how and the type of device that was utilized on Save a Child’s Heart’s recent catheterization mission to Tanzania.
In January of 2020, Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) carried out its annual catheterization mission to Tanzania, supported by SACH Canada, with a team of eight medical personnel from Wolfson Medical Center (WMC) and four medical personnel from Germany’s Deutsches Herzzentrum in Berlin (DHZB), alongside a Tanzanian medical team of more than 65 people from the JKCI.
The aims of this mission included treating more than 20 children suffering from complex heart defects that required intervention to survive, working hand-in-hand with our partners on the ground in Tanzania to offer ongoing knowledge-sharing in all aspects of pediatric cardiology and interventional pediatric cardiology, and the transference of dozens of boxes of medical supplies to be used during and after the mission.
In the catheterization lab, interventional pediatric cardiologist, Dr. Zhao Lijian who is working at JKCI as part of a friendship partnership between the government of China and the government of Tanzania, performed catheterizations alongside Dr. Assa of SACH and WMC and Drs. Felix Berger and Stephan Schubert, from DHZB.
Indeed, both the materials and the expertise shared that week, left a lasting impact on the Institute, namely, in supporting their developing cardiac catheterization program and providing its catheterization lab with the tools it needs to continue to treat patients locally and independently. One beneficiary of this partnership, whose life has now been saved due to our longstanding partnership with JKCI is little Jesca.