London: Dr Amir Sheikh is a consultant cardiothoracic surgeon. He works and lives in London with his wife and four children.
Dr Sheikh heard about Muntada Aid at a charity event and immediately offered his services as a part of the most recent Little Hearts mission to Qena, Egypt: “I was delighted to see that there was a British Muslim charity that was undertaking heart surgeries for children in impoverished areas of the world.”
Mission to Qena
The mission to Qena was an eye-opening experience for Dr Sheikh, and highlighted the extreme deprivation of medical facilities in the area: “It was a rewarding and fascinating experience for me. It was astonishing to find that the very basic facilities that we take for granted at the NHS UK hospitals are not present in these hospitals. For example, they didn’t have washbasins and sinks to scrubbing up before the surgery. They even didn't have washbasins to wash hands in the wards. There was no intensive care nursing monitoring charts and monitors in the ICU were of very poor quality. These things were shocking but not unexpected."
But despite all the challenges, Dr Sheikh found the whole experience very rewarding on several accounts: “We were able to help children and families who otherwise would not have received treatment to their ailments. They would have suffered in terms of quality of life and would have met a premature end. The benefit this mission brought was very palpable. You can see that satisfaction in the parents' eyes."
Dr Sheikh appreciates that in reality many of these defects are quite simple to treat and once corrected, the children go on to live normal and healthy lives. However, he is acutely aware that there are limits to these missions and a great deal more needs to be done to have a lasting impact on communities.
"It was also at the same time sad and despairing in some ways as there were some children who had defects that were too complex to be treated at such a facility and they had to be turned down for their benefit."
Muntada Aid's long-term aim is to build the capacity and provide the necessary training required by doctors and other support staff, to conduct similar complex operations on children in Egypt and other North African countries.
"The other rewarding experience from this mission was that we tried to train the local doctors to bring up their standards where they can in future treat the simple heart defects."
We have already signed a memorandum of understanding with Mansoura University hospital where we will be providing doctors with training and other related support to practice as paediatric heart surgeons.
"I would recommend this to any doctor in the NHS who can contribute in any shape or form," urged Dr Sheikh, who is eager to join us on our next mission.
If you are a medical professional and would like to be a part of our next Little Hearts mission, please email us at [email protected] with your details.