About 1,200 newborns are diagnosed every year in Romania with a heart malformation which could be corrected through surgery. Only 500 of these cases can be operated because there are very few hospitals which can handle such cases and, more important, there are only two specialised paediatric surgeons across the whole country. Transferring the cases abroad is possible but in practice it only happens for a handful of patients.
Because of this situation, many such cases are operated in their teenage years instead of their early childhood. Worse, children die: 156 of them passed away of heart malformations only in 2017.
It takes a lot of time to train specialised surgeons, it can mostly be done abroad and chances are these surgeons would not return to Romania after their training. Yet, an NGO from Sibiu has found a way to help the children where the public institutions are unable to.
Polisano NGO has contacted medical teams from across Europe and convinced them to come and operate pro bono. A private hospital in Sibiu is providing the surgery facilities. And private donors are paying for the surgery consumables and the ITU recovery, so the patients don't need to pay anything. Depending on funding, each year there can be around 4 or 5 surgery sessions. Each session is one week long, treating around 10 of the most difficult cases.
But equally important, local surgeons are also trained through these sessions so they will soon be able to perform themselves the very complicated and risky paediatric heart surgeries.
More than 100 children have been operated since the NGO stated their program. All the surgeries have so far been successful.
This is a glimpse of their collective story.