Kosovar babies undergo life-saving surgery in Prague

Photo: CTK

Edonis and Albion, two babies from Kosovo were flown to Prague in late July for life-saving surgery. Both were diagnosed with serious inborn heart defects by a team of Czech specialists active in war-stricken parts of the world. Today both are on the road to recovery - though in one case doctors say it was touch and go.

Photo: CTK
Edonis and Albion, clutched in their mothers' arms, were whisked from Ruzyne Airport to the cardio centre of Prague's Motol hospital - the biggest children's hospital in the Czech Republic. Both had arrived at the eleventh hour and their mothers knew that they had already been granted one miracle - their children had been selected for life saving surgery out of 14 others - who might or might not make it in time. Edonis, just a month old, was operated on first and is recovering well. Three month old Albion underwent emergency surgery over the weekend in critical condition - three days ahead of his scheduled operation. We spoke to his chief surgeon, the head of the children's cardio-centre, Dr Jan Skovranek.

Dr Jan Skovranek
"We operated on the baby this Saturday and we performed an arterial correction of the transposition and a patch closure of the ventricular defect and we are happy because the pressure in the pulmonary artery decreased significantly, but the pulmonary vascular bed is very, very active and so the patient remains in post operative care on full ventilation and an anti-hypertensive regime."

And what are the baby's chances of fully recovering?

"There is some risk that the changes in the pulmonary vascular bed could be irreversible but we hope that in this case - because the pressure in the pulmonary artery decreased immediately to one third of the systemic pressure - the changes are reversible and that the baby will be significantly improved within one to two weeks."

What would have been the fate of these babies if they had not come to you?

"Without surgery it would be impossible for them to survive with such an anomaly."

I understand that such operations are not unusual at Motol?

"For us it is a standard operation. We have some 450 cases every year. What is unusual is that these children come to us late. Patients from the Czech Republic are operated on at the optimal time."

Photo: CTK
So you get patients from other parts of the world -where babies come to you at the eleventh hour, so to speak?

"Yes, we have operated on dozens of patients from Irak and we have more patients from Kosovo as well. We've had patients from Pakistan, Afghanistan and earlier we operated on patients from Cuba, Hungary, Poland and so on."

And what is the success rate given that most of these patients come to you so late - often in critical condition?

"I must say that this is a pleasant surprise for us. During the last four to five years we operated on more than fifty patients from countries such as Kosovo and Irak and the patients were usually in critical condition but we operated in all cases and the mortality rate is zero. That's quite a surprise for us."

The Medevac humanitarian programme, within which patients from war-stricken areas are treated in the Czech Republic, is aimed at children who need life-saving surgery and cannot get it in their homeland. It has already saved the lives of more than 100 little patients from Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan. But always there are more children who need help and parents who are praying for a miracle. The Czech government recently earmarked 5 million crowns for the programme's extentition.