All over the world, children may be born with defects in the structure of their heart. This is no different in Burma. There are many variations of heart defects and most prevent normal blood flow in the heart and the vessels near it.
Children with heart defects present at the Mae Tao Clinic with many symptoms – some are obvious and others take time to pick up on. These include heart murmurs, cyanosis, shortness of breath, under-developed limbs and muscles, clubbing of finger and toe nails as well as episodes of respiratory infection and pneumonia.
Specific types of heart defects which we see in BCMF patients include:
- Septal (‘hole in the heart’) defects including ventricular septal defect (VSD) and atrial septal defect(ASD)
- Cyanotic (‘blue baby’) defects including Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF)
- Obstruction defects including pulmonary valve stenosis (PVS)
Treatment of children with congenital heart disease is expensive and complicated. However the prognosis is good so BCMF has many children with congenital heart defects on their program. Children up to 12 years of age have their surgery and treatment funded by Child’s Dream while other heart patients are funded directly by BCMF. Special adult cases are funded by the Burma Adult Medical Fund (BAMF) program.
Congenital heart defect is a serious condition and children usually require surgery and medication. BCMF facilitates the treatment of these children by arranging transport from the Mae Tao Clinic (on the Thai-Burma border) to Chiang Mai (350kms north-east of the border). When children arrive in Chiang Mai they visit a cardiologist to find out more about their condition. They will usually have an echocardiogram (ECHO/ECG) to provide us with an accurate assessment of their condition. Some children undergo a procedure called cardiac catheterization. This is done either to provide more diagnostic information on congenital heart disease or to repair certain types of heart defects as well as to open ‘stuck’ (stenotic) valves. Children with Tetralogy of Fallot, ventricular septal defect and pulmonary valve stenosis usually need this cardiac catheterisation.
BCMF is very pleased with the result of children who undergo heart surgery in Chiang Mai to correct congenital heart defects. Though treatment is costly and time-consuming, the long-term prospects for these children are well worth it.