A life-long commitment to healing broken hearts - especially among Africa’s less fortunate children - was recently recognised when internationally renowned cardiothoracic surgeon, Professor Rob Kinsley, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the KwaZulu-Natal Doctors Healthcare Coalition.
Professor Kinsley is the founder of The Children’s Cardiac Foundation of Africa (TCCFA) a non-profit organisation that offers free surgery to children in Africa that are born with congenital heart disease.
The award was presented at a ceremony held at the Coastlands Musgrave Hotel in Durban on Saturday and was attended by among others, the Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla.
The Lifetime Achievement Award honours individuals who have made significant and lasting contributions to healthcare.
The TCCFA is based at the Lenmed Ethekwini Hospital and Heart Centre.
Over his impressive five-decade-long career, Professor Kinsley has performed over 15,000 heart surgeries, primarily on children, and has trained more than twenty cardiac surgeons who now practice both in South Africa and abroad.
Founded by Professor Kinsley in 2019, The Children’s Cardiac Foundation of Africa is dedicated to saving the lives and improving the health of children born with congenital heart disease throughout Africa.
This is achieved by raising funds for heart surgeries and training specialists and support staff in the field of paediatric cardiac care.
The almost 83-year-old cardiac surgeon, who hung up his stethoscope two years ago and has been helping to nurture young heart surgeons, says he is honoured and grateful to have received the prestigious award.
However, Professor Kinsley said his achievement has been, by any means, a one-man band.
He paid homage to the wonderful medical teams and fellow surgeons who have worked tirelessly alongside him throughout his career.
“This has been a team effort. Most importantly, I am indebted to the courageous parents who have entrusted me with their children’s surgeries,” Professor Kinsley said.
“In the early days, failure was not infrequent, and we were learning, and we learnt from all the operations; both the successes and the failures,” he said.
“When we failed, we had to go back to the drawing board and decide on a different type of operation so I would often think of how painful it must have been for young mothers to take their children and hand their child over and it was like a sacred trust between the families and the surgical team.”
Professor Kinsley spoke passionately about having witnessed performance beyond prophecy in his over 50 years of working whereby surgeries have advanced to a point where surgeries can be corrected over the years.
“Every condition can be corrected, and it was not like that when I first started. It was very tough at that time because we were learning all the time,” he adds.
Professor Kinsley said he was excited to chat with one of his patients whom he met in a neo-natal ward decades ago who has since gone on to become a plastic surgeon in the United States and live a happy, healthy life.
Professor Kinsley hopes that the work of the Children’s Cardiac Foundation of Africa will continue to be a beacon of hope for both children born with cardiac defects and their parents and to raise awareness around children with congenital heart disease in Africa on a global stage.
Chairman of Lenmed, a group of private hospitals operating in four countries in Africa, Prakash Devchand said that it was a privilege to have Professor Kinsley on the paediatric team at the Lenmed Ethekwini Hospital and Heart Centre, the only private hospital offering paediatric cardiac surgery in KwaZulu-Natal.
“This facility is unique with a multidisciplinary 14-member team representing 10 paediatric sub-disciplines, perhaps the only private facility in South Africa to have this many paediatric sub-disciplines,” he said.
Devchand added that the hospital group is committed to quality healthcare and that he looks forward to seeing the unit grow from strength to strength, saving thousands more precious young lives.
This award acknowledges Professor Kinsley's unparalleled dedication to cardiac surgery, specifically his commitment to providing free heart surgeries for underprivileged children suffering from congenital heart disease across Africa.