Within the framework of a humanitarian aid project 18 seriously ill Iraqi children were flown from Basra to Prague in recent months to receive specialized medical care unavailable in their homeland. Thirteen of them had serious heart defects the rest had severe burns and injuries. This week cardio specialists at Prague's Motol hospital met with the press to report on their progress. Dr. Jan Skovranek is head of the Motol cardio centre for young children:
"We performed cardio surgery on 13 young Iraqi children all with complex congenital heart defects. The anomalies were very complex and the children were sent to us very late with deep hypoxemia and high hematocrit levels and so on and so on ...really very critical heart anomalies. And we are happy that we have had no deaths. Twelve out of thirteen children are back in Iraq in very good condition and the last child is still in our department getting post-operative care. "
These children will undergo regular medical checkups in Basra. Without surgery they would have died within a few months, but thanks to the fact that they were selected for surgery in Prague they will soon be able to lead normal lives. Other very sick children were less fortunate. General Leo Klein, surgeon general of the Czech army, explains how the little patients were selected by staff at the army field hospital in Basra:
"These were children who were seriously ill, but at the same time they had a good prognosis, i.e. a high probability of surviving surgery and good outlooks for healing. These decisions were made by our doctors in consultation with specialists in Prague."
I understand that the equipment available was not the latest so it was fairly difficult work but you apparently made some excellent diagnoses under the circumstances...
"Yes, that is right. You must understand that for field medicine, for a field hospital that does not generally have the most modern equipment at its disposal the main factor is always what I would call the human factor : the doctor, the nurse, the knowledge, the skills, the experience of people who are even more important than the best machines."
Thirteen children have been successfully operated on and -with the exception of one -are now back home recovering very well indeed. Are you happy with the way this project went?
"Yes, I appreciate it very much and I think that the cooperation of four institutions - the ministry of defence, the interior ministry, the health ministry and particularly the Motol hospital - was very good indeed. We created this "chain" of help. I think the project is a very good idea even if you can never provide care for all people who may be in need. But this is not possible, it is not our goal. You may help within the limited possibilities which any nation has."
Although the Czech field hospital has now ended its mission in Basra, the Czech government is seeking ways to continue helping Iraqi children.
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