Heart team aim to set up heart surgery unit in Ghana

Posted on in Staff

A Teesside heart team are giving up their holidays to perform life-saving operations in Ghana for a second time.

The team from The James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough are set to jet off on their second mission to the Kumasi Hospital on 19 October.

As part of the preparations 10 Ghanaians, including cardiologists, nurses and a surgeon, have spent four weeks in the cardiothoracic theatres at James Cook working closely with the Teesside team to develop their surgical skills.

The ultimate aim is for the Ghanaian team to get their own heart surgery unit up and running after the visit.

Ghanaian team visit James Cook

A team of 12 from Teesside went on a successful first mission to Ghana in February 2019 led by consultant cardiothoracic surgeon Enoch Akowuah, who grew up in Kumasi Ghana, where his parents still live. The team performed heart surgery and pacemaker insertions and forged close links with the unit.

This time a team of 17 will fly out to help perform heart surgery and complete further training with the Ghanaians to enable them to continue the life-saving work after they leave.

Ghana, with a population of 28 million people, has only one functioning heart unit in Accra in the far south of the country. Further north in the Kumasi region there are 200 patients between the age of 20 and 50 who need a heart operation now to save their life.

Enoch said: “The team have spent the last four weeks working closely with our team to improve and update their own skills as well as acquiring new ones. We have enjoyed having them here and learning from them too.

“It really does feel like we are getting some real momentum in Kumasi and there is no doubt that over the next 12 months or so the team there have a unique opportunity to set up an independent and sustainable service. It’s going to be very hard work but they are up for it and there’s is no question that the lessons learnt on this trip will be a major part of that.”

Joel Dunning, consultant cardiothoracic surgeon, said: “We have had an amazing four weeks with the Ghanaian team. They have all been extremely busy pairing up with the James Cook team that will then go to Ghana to continue their training.

“This experience at James Cook will transform the training opportunity that we will be able to give in Ghana and it is our dream that the local team will do the final heart surgery case unassisted at the end of our week there.”

The team have been fundraising for the mission with many of them successfully completing the Great North Run.

Donations can still be made at justgiving.com/fundraising/runningforghana