Heart Fund continues work after 36 years



KOTA KINABALU: The Society for the Sabah Heart Fund (SOSHF) has come a long way with its struggles.

Today, those who have served the body and are still serving can hold their heads high for assisting and improving the lives of 636 Sabah patients with heart defects, most of whom are children, since its inception 36 years ago.

Its president, Datuk Christine Vanhouten, disclosed that the youngest patient whom the society had helped was two months old while the oldest was 71.

Speaking at the SOSHF 36th anniversary cum fund raising charity dinner on Saturday, she said that this year, they intend to send 17 more patients for surgery and out of this, five have undergone treatment since January. However, she emphasized that day by day, they need more funds for the heart operation.

“This doesn’t mean patients with heart problem are increasing but as the years went by, the cost of surgery and treatment has skyrocketed,” said Christine.

According to her, the current cost for a heart operation has increased drastically from between RM18,000 – RM20,000 to RM30,000 – RM40,000 per person.

“In earlier years, patients were sent to Singapore, Institut Jantung Negara (IJN), Penang Adventist Hospital, Gleneagles Kuala Lumpur, Philippines, Indonesia and even Australia,” said Christine adding that the opening of cardiac centre which was finally set up in Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), availing local people to the facility nearer to home.

Apart from QEH, she said Gleneagles Kota Kinabalu also has a cardiac facility. Earlier in her speech, she said this was a positive development, especially for the SOSHF that was catering to the poorer members of the community who were having heart defects.

“Formally, our heart patients, who are mostly less fortunate and economically disadvantaged needed to fly overseas for their corrective heart surgeries,” said Christine.

Christine added flying experience could be traumatic for some patients who were already sick and actually have never flown before.

“It has always been SOSHF’s wish to have a heart centre near home so that there is no need for the patients to fly and be separated with concerned family members when the patients need to go overseas for their surgeries,” said Christine.

She added that the society also has a collaborative arrangement for children heart surgery with the Sejong Hospital in Korea.

The Sejong Hospital through the International Food for the Hungry Project worked with SOSHF and the medical department in Sabah to identify deserving heart patients to be sent to Korea for heart surgeries.

She said the operation was provided free by the Sejong Hospital and to date, the society had successfully sent 134 heart patients to Korea.

She continued to say that the SOSHF was able to sustain its services to heart patients through its various fund-raising projects, donations and financial assistance from the State Government through the Ministry of Community Development and Consumer Affairs.

“We are especially very happy this year because the society has received extra allocation to allow more heart patients to be assisted.

“We will utilize the extra funds with arrangements to have more surgeries done locally, namely with Gleneagles Kota Kinabalu,” said Christine.

Meanwhile, heart patient survivors helped by SOSHF, Hazline Malit, 18, is eternally grateful.

“I thank all those who have helped to sponsor the cost of my surgery and special thanks to SOSHF for helping me to get to Korea because if there was no assistance, I will not be healthy today,” said the Telupid lass who was diagnosed with Small DCSA VSD with Mild AR.

Hazline went to, Korea in January 2016 accompanied with her father to undergo a surgery. All round support from her family, caregivers and SOSHF encouraged her to live.

A parent of another survivor, Muhammad Ayyie Asraf, 2, said that Ayyie is their only child. ‘He was diagnosed with Large PMVSD and Small ASD since birth,” said the parent.

As they were poor, they could not afford any surgery for their child outside Sabah. They were elated and overwhelmed when SOSFH came to their aid and would sponsor the remedial treatment in Kuala Lumpur. At the age of 3, James Stephen, found out about his heart ailment when he accompanied his brother for medical attention.

As he was not feeling well too, the doctor also checked him and found out that James had three holes in the heart. In the end of 1997, the doctor also confirmed James had ‘heart valve problem, coupled with two big holes and another small hole.’

“It was indeed urgent that I need immediate corrective heart surgery as my breathing became more laboured. We sought the help of SOSHF,” recalled James, who went to Singapore the following year to have the operation. “I felt the difference and I live a normal life now,” said James, now, 44, and is married. He practices a healthy diet. The fund raising charity dinner was attended by Minister of Community Development and Consumer Affairs, Datuk Jainab Ahmad Ayaid.

Also present were Head of State, Tun Haji Juhar Haji Mahiruddin, Toh Puan Norlidah Datuk R.M. Jasni and Past President of SOSHF, Toh Puan Rahimah Stephens.

More than 1,500 guests attended and supported the event and were entertained by Malaysian artiste, Adibah Noor.

New Sabah Times