MUST READ: Boy becomes the youngest patient in Africa to receive a mechanical heart

Sister Ina Kok, Mnotho Mndebele, Mbali Mndebele, and Sister Bulelwa Ntilashe.


A five-year-old boy has become the youngest patient in Africa to receive a mechanical heart.

A medical team of the Maboneng Heart Institute situated at Netcare Sunninghill Hospital successfully completed the mechanical heart implantation. The recipient of this lifesaving procedure was five-year-old Mnotho Mndebele from Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal.

Prior to the operation, the little boy had a heart ventricular assist device (HVAD) implanted as a way of keeping his severely damaged heart functioning.

“The multidisciplinary team at the hospital involved in his treatment and care is absolutely thrilled with his progress, particularly as he had been seriously ill for months before the operation, and his recovery has therefore taken some time,” said Dr Viljee Jonker, a cardiothoracic surgeon who led the implantation team.

Mnotho suffered from dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition where the left ventricle of the heart becomes enlarged and weakened and is no longer able to pump blood properly. Jonker said the cause of the condition could often not be determined.

“Mnotho had been on the heart transplant list but paediatric heart donations rarely become available,” added Jonker. “He had also been in and out of intensive care units at various hospitals in the year leading up to the operation. In his case, we opted to use the HVAD as a bridge to a future heart transplant. In reality, it is a lifeline until such time as a matching donor heart can be found for him to undergo a biological heart transplant.”

According to Jonker, the brave young fighter will be heading home soon to begin his new life.

“Now he has a new lease on life and is looking forward to going home to his family and friends. We fully expect him to be able to go to school and do everything a normal young boy would do. However, unlike other children, he will carry a small external battery pack for his implanted HVAD mechanical heart either on a belt around his waist or in a small backpack. The batteries for the mechanical heart will have to be recharged every eight hours or so.”

Jacques du Plessis, managing director of Netcare’s hospital division, had high praise for the members of the team who operated on and cared for the young patient.

Sister Ina Kok, Mnotho Mndebele, Mbali Mndebele, and Sister Bulelwa Ntilashe.

“While this is a significant milestone in the history of paediatric cardiac medicine in South Africa, it is so much more, it has offered a lifeline for this young boy and his parents,” said Du Plessis. “This is a story of hope which will resonate with families of young children afflicted with serious heart conditions across the African continent.”

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Staff Reporter [email protected]

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