East Timor Hearts Fund – Mending Broken Hearts – Operation GoodHearts

I am currently en route to Timor Leste to meet and support the great people who have championed a life-saving initiative for many young Timor-Leste people Operation GoodHearts, organised by the charity East Timor Hearts Fund.

Last week was a remarkable week for the East Timor Hearts Fund. This charity organises life-saving heart surgery for Timor-Leste’s people who are suffering from rheumatic heart fever. This life-saving surgery has, until now, involved the patients, one at a time, travelling to Australia for their surgery and recovery. Whilst effective, this treatment plan is expensive and time-consuming.

This changed last week when the organisation ran the first ever Operation GoodHearts!

Operation GoodHearts, involved an incredible volunteer medical team of Australian cardiac surgeons, cardiologists, nurses and health workers traveling to Timor-Leste to work alongside local staff in Dili to set up a temporary surgical suite to operate on more Timor-Leste patients in a week than they would ordinarily manage to treat in a year when the patients had to travel to Australia.

Operation GoodHearts first week has been a success with the team successfully mended 10 hearts in five days while on the ground in Timor-Leste.

Patients suffering from Rheumatic heart fever, who are often young women, need this corrective procedure for a condition that is the legacy of childhood rheumatic fever, a disease largely eradicated in the west. While Timor-Leste’s health system is improving all the time, a lack of specialist medical facilities means that until now, overseas treatment has been the only option. This procedure offers an immediate solution for young people whose future prospects are otherwise grim.

The CEO of Australian NGO East Timor Hearts Fund, Stuart Thomson, said the surgical mission was a first for the organisation, and was an effective and efficient way to allow more patients to receive treatment.

“Until now we have been bringing patients to Australia for surgery one by one, which is expensive and time consuming,” Mr Thomson said.

“This surgical mission lets us operate on more patients in five days than we would usually treat in a year.”

Mr Thomson said East Timor Hearts Fund would continue to bring patients to Australia but hoped to increasingly offer surgery in Timor-Leste.

“We work to support the health system in Timor-Leste and eventually we would be overjoyed to see patients with complex heart conditions able to receive treatment by local surgeons in local hospitals,” Mr Thomson said.