Five-year-old Joel Wesonga had a difficult infancy. “He cried a lot, and we didn’t know what the problem was,” said his father, Peter Wesonga. “When I took him to the referral hospital in Busia County, I was sent to a hospital in Kisumu which had facilities to test what the doctors were speculating. That’s how we found out that Joel had a hole in his heart,” Mr. Wesonga recalled, referencing a congenital heart condition known as a ventricular septal defect (VSD).
Joel was put on medication in hopes that his VSD would close over time, but instead his health deteriorated. While his peers were bursting at the seams with energy, Joel became weak and tired very quickly, and could no longer go to school or play with friends.
Joel’s father consulted a heart specialist at Kenyatta National Hospital, and was ultimately referred to Mater Hospital in September 2016. While Mr. Wesonga was trying to raise funds for the very costly surgery the doctors recommended for Joel, the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) in conjunction with A&K Global Health launched the cardiac surgery program, sponsoring patients who had been waitlisted for treatment. Mr. Wesonga described the cardiac program’s benefits, and its timing, as “a miracle” for his family: Joel would receive surgery at Mater Hospital, and it would be covered by the NHIF.
A&K Global Health closely managed Joel’s preoperative, perioperative and postoperative care. Our team’s final visit to Mater Hospital before Joel’s discharge was particularly special. “When we entered his cube, one could feel the excitement and energy of this little boy!” said Eva Gulavi, Public Relations and Communications Officer. “The whole room was filled with laughter as Joel told us stories of how he wants to become a doctor when he grows up, so that he can fix people’s hearts too. Joel had already made friends in the ward, and one came to visit him while we were there. They were all over the place with their toy trucks, just like five-year-olds should be! And when Joel heard the sound of an airplane, he announced that he was going to leave us with his truck so that he could fly with the plane back to his home in Busia County. This could only mean that, with a healthy heart and newfound liveliness, this little boy was looking forward to going back home to live a normal life…the kind he could not have previously because of his heart condition.”
“It’s hard to overstate the profoundly positive medical, social, economic, and interpersonal impacts of this program,” said Stephen Masinde, Kenya National Director. “The NHIF’s cardiac surgery program is saving lives, using Kenyan doctors and hospitals to do it while augmenting their capacity at the same time, and inspiring the next generation of Kenyan citizens.”
We can’t wait to see where Joel’s future takes him. Whether he pursues medicine or not, we are simply grateful that this little boy now has his whole life ahead of him to dream big.
In the photograph above: Joel and his father, Peter Wesonga, joyfully await Joel’s discharge from Mater Hospital and a healthy, happy return to their home in Busia County.
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