Two cardiac health workers have returned home after a challenging week helping children in South Africa.
Cardiac physiologists, Maxine Lang and Cath Tomlinson, from the Lancashire Cardiac Centre in Blackpool, were part of a humanitarian programme visit to the country with the British Society of Echocardiography in association with Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town.
The pair are used to carrying out echocardiograph scans on patients but they have never been faced with dealing with children from such deprived areas.
The focus of the trip was to determine the incidence of rheumatic heart disease in secondary school children from the economically deprived areas they visited, where up to 90 per cent of the students live in shacks.
The five-year project will give the children much needed early access to diagnosis and necessary aftercare through the Tygerberg Hospital.
Cath, from Blackpool, said: “Rheumatic heart disease is incredibly rare in this country. It is only really found in old people, so for young people to be suffering from it is really unheard of in our society.
“It was a chance for us to learn about a condition we don’t really come in to contact with here.
“The key, though, is that we made a difference over there.
“We will be part of a legacy of treatment which is exciting for us both.”
The team saw around 200 children during the week they were there. The project has now seen 1,560 children with the aim of reaching 2,000 this year.
Maxine, from Stalmine, said: “It was pretty much as we expected as we had been well informed by the organisers before we travelled.
“The unit we were working in was very nice and had been updated specifically to accommodate this project. The rest of the hospital facilities seemed comparatively dated.
“The children we saw were healthier than expected and, although there were some who needed to be followed up, the numbers were not as large as anticipated.’’
The pair both say they enjoyed the experience but are glad to be home.
However, the project is expected to run for five years so there is plenty of time to return to Africa.
To find out more about Echo in Africa visit www.echoinafrica.org.