It was another mission at the highest level, the one that crowned the 10th anniversary of our work in Eritrea. Our team consisted of 16 healthcare workers from Padua Hospital/University (3 cardiac surgeons, 2 cardiologists, 2 anaesthesiologists, 1 cardiac intensivist, 2 operating theatre nurses, 4 ICU nurses – 2 from cardiac surgery and 2 from the Department of Paediatrics – and 2 clinical perfusionists) and demonstrated the highest level of organization in terms of both efficiency and professionalism.
Dr Nicola Maschietto studied and assessed over 50 children by echocardiography (who were previously enrolled, even from rural areas far from Asmara). She found that 12 were eligible for surgical correction. In only 6 days we carried out 14 operations on 12 children, most of these were open heart surgery procedures.
Surely a record, also taking into account that some of the diseases treated were extremely complex and at least two of the children who we successfully operated on were deemed “too complex” for correction by European missions that preceded us.
All 12 children were transferred from intensive care to the inpatients ward and will soon be discharged from the hospital to stay under the care of Dr Tzegereda, the tireless local paediatric cardiologist.
In total, since our first mission, we have operated on 126 children with only one death (from late complication) which remains an outstanding record when compared to the efficiency and availability of resources available to the European centres to which we compare ourselves.
During our mission, a perfect synergy has been maintained between the team from Padua and the local team in Asmara. We alternated in the operating theatre with Dr Yoseph and Dr Faniel who participated with us in all the planned operations.
We have continued to teach the local staff. There have been many visits by students from the Faculty of Medicine, who have been given lessons both at the bedside and in the operating theatre. Teaching at nursing level in the operating theatre by our perfusionist technicians has also continued.
Our high level of commitment allowed us to successfully treat the first infant in Asmara with an extremely complex disease, using the complex technique of deep hypothermia and arrest of the extracorporeal circulation. A six-day old child (the youngest baby ever operated on in Eritrea) with a critical illness of the pulmonary valve was also successfully treated.
I have no words to thank all the team members who gave their time for the good of the Eritrean children who would otherwise have been left to their short natural lives. A special thanks to Dr Alvise Tosoni, Mauro Maritan and Maristella Masola who, at the time of our departure from Asmara, stayed another three days to care for the children of recent operations.
Mr Alem Demoz, our tireless Eritrean collaborator, has once again proved to be the mainstay for the local organisation and the logistical support for any need in Asmara. My heartfelt thanks go out to all those who have worked in Padua, for many months, in preparation of our mission.
On our return we meet again, this time with happiness and proud to have successfully treated many Eritrean children who can now return to the arms of their parents. We feel proud in the knowledge that he have also represented, internationally and at the highest level, our country and the School of Padua.
The meeting with the Ambassador, Dr Stefano Pontesilli was extremely positive. The Ambassador himself tells us that our missions are now well known in Italy and that they will be an important motivation for his project of rapprochement of the political relations between the two countries.
With the hope that the collaboration between Italians and Eritreans, who are still closely tied both culturally and emotionally, can last over time, I want to thank all those in both countries, who have helped and participated with us these 10 years both practically and with moral support for the realisation of our project. Special thanks to Professor Ornella Milanesi, whose contribution in recent years has been critical to the development and optimisation of our clinical and teaching programs in Asmara.
All this has been possible thanks to the enthusiasm and dedication of all participants in the mission, for economic, logistical and organisational support of the NPO Un Coure Un Mondo Padova especially the President, Walter Cadorin and the vice-president Lucia Merigliano, Consulcesi (Rome), Dr Salvatore Galanti, Massimo Tortorella and Federica Bracci, in addition to the generosity of many citizens, private and public bodies, and NGOs.
Professor Giovanni Stellin