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Breakthrough Heart Surgery Gives 10-Year-Old New Life



Thobani Ngcobo (CCU nursing operational manager), Dr Yakeen Harilall (head of cardiac perfusion), Dr Alexa de Castro (head of cardiac anaesthesia), Dr Manogran Moopanar (head of the clinical unit, cardiothoracic surgery and congenital cardiac surgeon), Dr Shabalala, Sister Tasneem Metadad (senior cardiac ICU sister), Sister Nokuphiwa Shazi (operational nursing manager for the cardiac surgical theatre), and Dr Linda Mtshali (acting CEO of Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital), together with Siyabonga Mthethwa (10).

In a landmark medical achievement, a 10-year-old boy plagued by a debilitating heart condition has been given renewed hope and a fresh lease on life through a groundbreaking heart operation at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital.

Young Siyabonga Mthethwa recently underwent a gruelling 10-hour heart procedure, a pioneering endeavour that marks a milestone for public hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal.

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Siyabonga’s struggles were vividly evident, preventing him from engaging fully with his peers and participating in physically demanding activities. Nokuphila Mthethwa, his aunt, recounted his limited playtime and frequent complaints of chest pains. He exhibited signs of frailty, succumbing quickly to the flu and rapidly losing weight. Only when Siyabonga was referred from Nkonjeni Hospital to Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital after a diagnosis revealed a heart issue a glimmer of hope emerged.

Aware of the gravity of Siyabonga’s congenital heart problem and the looming risk, the family faced an agonizing decision. The procedure became their only viable option. Nokuphila conveyed their anxieties, prayers, and ultimate relief, as Siyabonga emerged from the surgery with newfound vigour. Now, with gratitude in their hearts, they look forward to seeing him enjoy a normal childhood, engaging joyously with his friends. Nokuphila sincerely appreciated the dedicated medical team and staff orchestrating this life-altering operation.


In a celebratory media briefing, Dr Sandile Tshabalala, the head of KwaZulu-Natal Health, lauded the exceptional skills of the cardiothoracic surgical team. Their accomplishment was all the more remarkable as they harnessed technology initially designed for COVID-19 patients struggling to breathe independently. Dr. Sanvir Maharaj, one of the cardiac surgeons, detailed Siyabonga’s case – a patient grappling with a substantial heart hole and abnormal valve functionality. These conditions detrimentally impacted his growth and vitality, leaving him exhausted by minimal exertion. Ordinarily, corrective surgery for this ailment is performed during early childhood, around ages three to five. Despite Siyabonga’s delayed presentation at the hospital, the medical team deemed him suitable for the surgery, a testament to their expertise and innovation.

In a poignant revelation, Dr Tshabalala highlighted the critical role played by a life-saving machine called Extra-Corporeal Membranous Oxygenation (ECMO), priced at approximately R1.5 million. This advanced technology serves as artificial life support for individuals with compromised heart and lung functions. Remarkably, although previously confined to a different department, the ECMO was never employed in cardiac surgery within KwaZulu-Natal’s public healthcare sector.

In essence, this account underscores Siyabonga’s triumphant journey from debilitation to vitality, offering a profound glimpse into medical innovation, dedication, and the indomitable spirit of a young patient’s resilience.

Source: Unprecedented heart surgery grants boy (10) fresh lease on life

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Photo: Supplied by Rising Sun Newspapers

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