10 Sep 2018

Cardiac team heads to Fiji to help heart kids

6:38 am on 10 September 2018

A surgical team from New Zealand is preparing to travel to Fiji this week to repair the damaged hearts of 20 babies and children.

Newborn baby

Photo: 123RF

Cardiac surgeon Dr Kirsten Finucane from Auckland's Starship hospital will head the team of 30 nurses and doctors who will operate alongside local staff to improve the lives of the children.

She said some children were born with heart defects that could be surgically repaired and completely cured.

But she said others with hearts damaged by rheumatic fever had more complex issues and were harder to help with surgery alone.

She said it was important to triage the children who would receive the most benefit from the surgery and follow up from previous years' work was also part of the programme.

Dr Finucane said the team's intervention saved a lot of lives and had a huge impact.

"So sometimes we operate on children who have spent the last few months in hospital. And these families are poor and there are a number of children often in the families and the other ones are disadvantaged by the illness of their siblings. So it actually has quite an impact on the whole family and even the whole village", she said.

Dr Finucane said team's work was supported by the Friends of Fiji, the Heart Foundation and the Hearts for Kids charities.

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