Thoracic and cardiac surgeon in Atlanta, Dr. Jonathan Nwiloh said that he had carried out free heart surgeries for no fewer than 200 indigent Nigerians in need of life-saving interventions.
Nwiloh told the News Agency of Nigeria that the open heart surgeries were carried out through his foundation, Joe Nwiloh Heart Foundation, in the last 15 years.
The Nigerian founder of the foundation said that he had a passion to help advance the field of cardiovascular surgery in Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa.
He said: “Over the last 15 years since reintroducing open heart surgery in Nigeria, I have been performing free open heart surgeries for indigents who were otherwise doomed to untimely death without these life-saving surgeries.
“We have performed free heart surgeries to more than 200 indigents and also trained hundreds on emergency cardiovascular resuscitation for cardiac arrest victims.’’
According to World Health Organisation, cardiovascular diseases are the leading causes of death worldwide while in Africa, it is second to HIV and AIDS and projected to become the overall number one killer over the next decade.
Nwiloh said that because more than 70 per cent of the populations of sub-Saharan Africa live below poverty level, majority of patients needing this life-saving modern surgery do not have access and often die prematurely.
He said: “Joe Nwiloh Heart Foundation was founded to help tackle some of these societal challenges, which we have been championing over the last 15 years.
“To extend the benefits to more people, we are trying to form partnerships and solicit support for expansion of our various programmes to transform more lives.’’
He explained that the foundation had partnered the Federal Government and several state Governments, including Lagos, Kaduna State and Anambra since 2003, when Nigeria was in dire need.
Nwiloh said: “More than 15 years ago, I reintroduced the practice of open heart surgery in Nigeria after the only programme at University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Nsukka, shut down over a decade earlier.
“I subsequently helped to establish several heart surgery programmes after demonstrating that it could be performed safely in Nigeria with acceptable outcomes leading to its proliferation across the country.
“This led to my partnership with Anambra Government under then Gov. Peter Obi, with the establishment of Dr Joe Nwiloh Heart Center at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Adazi.
“The hospital is presently the only heart surgery programme in the whole South-East and South-South geo-political zones outside of University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu.
“We are starting in Nigeria but intend to extend the training to other countries in sub Saharan Africa; we are also forming partnerships with other Nigerian and international non-governmental organizations.’’