R5m donation in honour of King Goodwill Zwelithini sees 20 children undergo heart surgery

Professor Robin Kinsley, world rennowned cardiac surgeon and founder of the Children’s Cardiac Foundation of South Africa.

Professor Robin Kinsley, world rennowned cardiac surgeon and founder of the Children’s Cardiac Foundation of South Africa.

Published Mar 21, 2021


DURBAN - Twenty children on the waiting list for corrective heart surgery will have a second chance at life through a R5 million donation from the Sibaya Community Trust, in honour of King Goodwill Zwelithini.

The Children’s Cardiac Foundation of South Africa, the recipient of the donation, is the brainchild of cardiac surgeon Professor Robin Kinsley and was established in 2018 in partnership with Lenmed eThekwini Hospital & Heart Centre.

Kinsley said there were about 500 children awaiting surgery.

“It was not necessarily a waiting list but rather a death list as the only way to come off it was through death if corrective surgery was not performed,” said Kinsley.

“This donation by Sibaya has enabled us to operate on at least 20 or more children in the memory of King Goodwill Zwelithini. I hope the contribution will be a starting point and that many others will come forward.

“My hope is that we have a tree of life that we will call the King Goodwill Zwelithini paediatric cardiac tree,” he said.

Kinsley explained that paediatric surgery had not been a government priority and that was heartbreaking to witness. He said the foundation would concentrate on children from KwaZulu-Natal for now, but the goal was to operate on children from around the country.

“South Africa has done very well with TB and HIV but it is not the case when it comes to paediatric cardiac surgery.

“Phenomenal advances have been made compared to when I first started in the USA in the 70’s. There were very few children that were being operated on because we did not know how to correct the anomalies. But now just about everything is correctable, there is hardly any condition that can’t be corrected,” he said.

Kingsley said all surgeries would be conducted at Lenmed by a team of specialists which he manages.

“It’s very much a first world unit but what is interesting in this specific paradox in South Africa is that we do have first world units but they are functioning largely in third world environments. Children come from poor backgrounds and they have no chance of having corrective cardiac surgery and there are so many children in Africa who are being denied corrective paediatric cardiac surgery,” he said.

Kinsley, who has performed over 150 000 surgeries, said there was nothing as gratifying as seeing parents of the children who were destined not to see their fifth birthday watch their children come to life, back running around and normal.

“It is absolutely wonderful, a child comes into hospital blue because of lack of oxygen. To witness the parents see their child for the first time and a few days later getting up and walking out of hospital is very touching,” Kinsley said.

Vivian Reddy, Chairman of Sibaya, said their donation was fitting considering the sacrifices done by King Goodwill Zwelithini for the province.

“His Majesty loved children, we thought it would be a good gesture to save the lives of these children from poorer communities in his name. In his death, 20 lives will be saved,” he said.

Reddy said during his last meeting with King Goodwill Zwelithini in late January, they discussed a number of issues and he had raised concerns over the lack of medical facilities and how children with congenital cardiac problems were sent home to die. He said the king had also spoken at length on gender based violence and the efforts that needed to be made to curb the problem.

Honouring the king’s wishes, Reddy will also be building a shelter for victims of gender based violence. He said a team currently working with the Phoenix Child Welfare had been assembled and they had identified land and architects had been commissioned.

“We are going to have a marvellous building, we will make it special. I think it is important that more businesses and the government honour his majesty with naming buildings after him because he did so much, he saved the province.”

Construction will begin in the next month and Reddy is hoping to have the new king open the centre at the end of the year.