Filipino woman looks to SA to repair damaged heart
Johannesburg - A woman from the Phillipines has been given a new lease at life, thanks to South African doctors who performed a life-saving procedure to repair her damaged heart valve.
Natascha Oliversen, who grew up in Namibia but has been living in the Philippines with her husband for the past 18 years, was diagnosed with a severely leaking heart valve.
Her Phillipines-based cardiologist did not think she would make it during the open heart-surgery and advised her to say farewell to her family in case she did not survive.
However, Oliversen instead came to South Africa where she had the "keyhole" heart valve repair procedure at the Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital in Cape Town.
“I did not even know that such a minimally invasive approach was available to repair damaged heart valves. My husband and I are over the moon that I was able to undergo this procedure in Cape Town.
"Prior to the operation I was really starting to feel the effects of my leaking heart valve and was deeply concerned about my future,” said an elated Oliversen.
For Oliversen to end up having the operation in South Africa was through a chance encounter.
After her cardiologist told her about the risks of having an open heart surgery and that she must bid her loved ones goodbye in case she does not survive it, she went to Namibia to see her family as she did not know if it would be the last time she sees them.
There, she met and old friend who had undergone cancer treatment at Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital.
“My friend said that she had fantastic treatment at the facility, so I thought I would look into what cardiac treatments they offer.
"I first saw cardiologist, Dr Faizel Lorgat at the hospital, who reassured me that there was an outstanding team at the facility doing heart valve repair and replacement procedures. I then did extensive research into both the team and hospital and became convinced that this was the best option for me,” she said.
“My medical insurer tried to persuade me to have the operation either in Singapore, the UK [United Kingdom] or in Norway, where my husband and I were in the process of relocating.
"I told them I had researched Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital carefully and believed that the best possible treatment for my condition was being offered by them and I can tell you, my husband and I are really grateful that we insisted on being treated there," she said.
The medical team that operated on Oliversen as led by cardiothoracic surgeon, Professor Jacques Scherman and Dr Otto Thaning who had trained under the late Professor Christiaan Barnard, the South African cardiac surgeon who performed the world's first highly publicized heart transplant and the first one in which the patient regained consciousness.