Below are a selection of stories about some of the children Take Heart has had the opportunity to help in the past.
If you would like to find out how you can get involved please download our Take Heart Mercy Mission brochure here
The Take Heart team wish many happy returns to Pawani Anuththara
Everyone at Take Heart Mercy Mission would like to wish a very happy birthday to Pawani Anuththara who celebrated her fifth birthday on June 9.
Pawani was assessed by the Take Heart doctors and given essential heart surgery during our 2010 Mission and is now able to live a normal life like any other five year old.
Her mother tells us Pawani is now in excellent health and attending pre-school and her Father, Mother and Sister sent their thanks to all the team at Take Heart Mercy Mission.
Menushi Dinethme was just two years and 11 months when she came to the Karapitiya Teaching Hospital. Take Heart doctors discovered that she had a defect between the small and large chambers of the heart which had stunted her growth and effected her breathing. She arrived at the hospital with mum Dinusha after a five hour bus ride.
Having been assessed by the Take Heart doctors she was immediately prepped for surgery and taken down to the operating theatre. Dr. Conal Austin explained that Menushi had a very severe form of congenital heart disease and that for the surgery to be successful there were three main elements that had to be fully addressed.
Within an hour of the surgery being completed Menushi told her mum that she wanted to go home and have some chocolate. Little Menushi spent a further three days in intensive care being looked after by the Take Heart team before being transferred to the general ward where she was greeted by her delighted grandparents and other family members.
If you would like to watch Menushi's story or other stories from our 2012 mercy mission please take a look at our videos here
The Take Heart Mercy Mission Team first met Thaneesha Indika in 2010. She was one year old at the time and due her heart problem had spent months in hospital dependent on oxygen.
She was born with a complex condition in which the aorta and pulmonary artery are the wrong way round. It was not possible to fully repair her heart in 2010, so a first stage operation was performed to 'retrain' her heart and lungs to cope with a normal circulation.
The Mercy Mission team were not able to return to Sri Lanka the following year so Thaneesha and her family waited anxiously, hoping that her heart function would improve enough to cope with a complete repair. During this time Thaneesha remained fragile often requiring medical treatment and oxygen.
When the Take Heart team travelled back to Galle in 2012, Dr Simpson reviewed Thaneesha and her scans carefully and decided that she would be able to cope with the arterial switch operation.
Conal Austin operated on Thaneesha for the second time in September 2012 aiming to repair her heart completely which would give her the chance to lead a normal life.
Following her surgery Thaneesha was critically ill and dependent on a ventilator even after the team had left Sri Lanka. Thankfully she gradually recovered and was discharged from hospital a few weeks later with a normal heart.
The delightful smiling girl in the photo is Thaneesha, growing laughing and active. She has a normal heart and we look forward to following the progress of this intelligent beautiful girl and her happy family for many years.
Silumini was a lucky recipient of a magical heart operation by the Take Heart Mercy Mission to Sri Lanka, during one of our pilgrimages to Sri Lanka. Born in Ragama, about 30 kilometres northwest of Colombo, Silumini was just like any other little girl and was the centre of the world for her parents, father Upul, a winchman at Columbo port and Samanthika; a stay at home mum.
The first sign of the problem that was to traumatise the family was Silumini's incessant crying - every baby cries, but this was non-stop, her parents tell me; day and night it went on. She also seemed to be struggling when doing something as natural as breathing. Numerous visits to the General Practitioner as well as the Ragama Hospital proved useless as doctors insisted that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the little one.
Perhaps the most galling thing - or this may be something that is understandable to a certain extent in Sri Lanka depending on how you look at it - was the fact that doctors refused to provide the family an Echo examination. After endless months and attempts to get the doctors to agree to an Echo, the family finally succeeded, only to find out that 11 month old Silumini had a hole in her heart. The parents tell me that they were absolutely devastated and had no idea what to do, while doctors insisted that the hole would close up naturally.
Fate however, had other ideas. At a healing session at their local church, Silumini's parents heard that a group of doctors from the UK were due to arrive in Sri Lanka to conduct free heart operations and the church had been asked to submit the name of a family that required an emergency operation for a loved one. By the time Samanthika got around to telling the church about Silumini, the one name had already been chosen, that one a man in his 30's who required urgent surgery on a heart ailment.
Crestfallen, the family were back to square one. A few days later a messenger from the church arrived at the Fernando household to inform them that the doctors only perform operations on children and that the earlier man's name had been picked wrongly. There was then a mad dash from Ragama to the General Hospital in Colombo with Samanthika riding on the back of her brother in law's motorcycle with tiny Devmini in a helmet. At the hospital the doctors examined Silumini then began discussing something between themselves, Samanthika continues that she could see the grave looks in their faces and feared the worst. Then one of the local doctors came up to her and told her that operation or not, her little girl only had weeks to live. The chief surgeon on the team Mr. Conal Austin FRCS, insisted that the operation was too difficult and the chances of survival for the little girl were staggeringly slim. In the end however he agreed to go ahead with the surgery, taking five hours to close the hole in Silumini's heart.
Silumini's operation, in 2002, was the first carried out by the Take Heart team in Sri Lanka. Little Silumini was in London as Dr. Austin and Dr. Simpson were honoured at the Children's Champions Awards, organised by children's charity Barnado's and News of the World. Speaking on behalf of the parents, Mrs. Samanthika Fernando, said they were deeply grateful to the team. "When we had no hope, you came and saved us," she said. Silumini and her parents were later flown to London by the team and had the privilege of meeting British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Mrs Blair at a ceremony where Mr Austin was honoured for his work with a 'Children's Champion Award'.
Fourteen-year-old Maduka Niroshini was also operated on by the doctors of Take Heart Mercy Mission to treat a hole in the heart. Niroshini's mother said "The doctors told us that they could not cure her. But now she is a lot better,".
The Take Heart team knew that operating on Maduka was going to be difficult due to her age, children that are older have a higher vulnerability to infection and other risks. If Maduka was born in England, the hole in her heart would have been diagnosed much earlier in life.
Having successfully operated on Maduka, the Take Heart team have now given her a chance to live a full and happy life. Without having this operation Maduka may not have been here today.
Mrs Indika Janithakumara and her family made a 75-mile journey from Gampaha to the Karapitiya Hospital so that the Take Heart team could operate on her two year-old son Tharushan Pathiraja.
Tharushan Pathiraja is the only child of Indika, 23, and Janika, 26. Now 14 months old, he has suffered exhaustion since birth. The couple spent their savings travelling to hospitals to find out what was wrong with her son. Dad Janika works as a driver, so their funds soon ran dry. But they were finally referred to Karapitiya Hospital in Galle, 150 miles from their hometown. There they heard about the Mercy Mission team.
When John examined him, he found Tharushan had a heart defect called an anomalous left coronary arising from the pulmonary artery, which meant his heart wasn't functioning at its full capacity. Untreated, the condition usually proves fatal and the operation has a very high failure rate. His diagnosis understandably left the family devastated.
The condition is so rare, it was only the third time Conal had come across it, but the operation went smoothly. When Tharushan woke from his anaesthetic during the night, he even tried to climb out of bed. Later that day he was moved to the children's ward.
"Although it'll take months, maybe years, for his heart to fully recover, it's improved already," explains John. Indika adds: "Now my child is well, we'll have a much better life."
Another beneficiary of the team's expertise was young Chamali Dilrukshi, who had come from Baddegama. She suffered from a Ventricular Septal Defect, which made her go blue if she experienced stress or became tired.
Chamali’s mother K.G. Premawathi told The Sunday Times that Chamali had been suffering from this illness since she was 11 months old. “Dr. Gamage did the first operation and asked us to wait till the Take Heart doctors arrived from London as the second operation would be a major one,” she said.
Today Chamali is able to run and play when once she could not even walk to school.
Rishmiya Banu was eight when she came to see the Take Heart team and had been suffering from serious heart pain from an early age.
Her parents, Shuhana and Mohamed, first took her to be examined when she was 18 months old, but no one could work out what was wrong with their little girl. When she was four, Rishmiya was referred to a private hospital in Colombo, 70 miles from their village.
Rishmiya Banu and mum Shuhana
However, the private hospital asked for large fees that the couple struggled to raise. When Rishmiya was six, Shuhana and Mohamed had their second daughter, Rimasa, who they also discovered had a heart defect. As their children's health deteriorated they were advised to travel to Karapitiya Hospital.
By complete chance, the family arrived a week before the Mercy Mission team were due. On examining the two girls, Dr. Gamage found 13-month-old Rimasa had a hole in the heart, which is rectified by an operation, however Rishmiya's condition was far worse and she was referred to the Take Heart team.
When John Simpson scanned Rishmiya he discovered she had the same abnormal coronary artery as another patient, young Tharushan Pathiraja. As she was much older, aged seven, she had also developed angina. Two days later Shuhana brought Rishmiya down to the operating theatre.
The operation was a success and by the afternoon she woke and asked for water. The next day Rishmiya was moved to the children's ward. "I've been in and out of hospitals for seven years since Rishmiya was born," reveals Shuhana. "She was in pain everyday before the operation. But now she's much happier. I am so grateful."
The following year Rishmiya returned to the Karapitiya to express her gratitude to the doctors, nurses and other medical personnel from the Take Heart team. Her parents' thanked Rishmiya's surgeon Dr. Conal Austin by presenting him with a sterling silver tray in the shape of Sri Lanka.
Sunethra Sandharuweni was seven days old when she was diagnosed with a heart problem. The youngest of three, Sunethra's parents, Wimalasena and Dhamawathie, were desperate to help their only daughter.
The local doctors didn't know how to treat her so they went to several hospitals to get tests. Wimalasena had to give up his fruit selling business as he was spending so much time and money travelling.
|Sunethra has improved by leaps and bounds since her op in 2001|
Eventually, when she was 16, she was treated by the team on the very first Mercy Mission trip. The operation was a success and has enabled her to live a normal life.
"Before the operation I couldn't walk far without getting out of breath," Sunethra explained.
"I'd feel faint a lot of the time. At school I couldn't run around and play with the other children so I'd sit around and try to sing but would get really tired and breathless.
"I couldn't have a conversation like I can now. I used to get headaches. My fingers were blue and my lips were dark. I have completely changed since having the operation."
“Now I'm cured I can play and run and exercise like normal children. I like dancing and can ride a bicycle and play football."
"I was a bit scared when I went for my check-up with Dr. Simpson this year as I thought I might need to be operated on again. But I don't, so I'm really happy. My life has been saved by the Mercy Mission team and I feel so much gratitude towards them. It's a gift from heaven."
"My parents never expected we would have the chance for a normal life again. We pray for the doctors every night."