Tibetan children get lifesaving heart surgery in Wuhan

Eight Tibetan children with congenital heart disease have received free medical treatment at Union Hospital, an affiliate of Tongji Medical College at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Central China's Hubei province, in recent weeks.

Led by Dong Nianguo, director of the hospital's cardiovascular surgery department, medics from the hospital traveled thousands of kilometers to Lhokha city, Tibet autonomous region, to conduct examinations of children with congenital heart disease in July.

The team of 10 held screenings in four counties in Lhokha over four days in July.

Seventy-two children with suspected congenital heart disease were given free examinations in six villages, including two at an altitude of 4,300 meters. Of the 72, eight displayed surgical indications and agreed to go to Wuhan for treatment.

Due to its climate, geographical location and low levels of oxygen, among other factors, Tibet has one of the highest rates of congenital heart disease in China.

The eight children, ranging in age from 18 months to 11 years, received treatment in Wuhan between Sept 15 and 24.

Dong said that after two weeks of successful treatment, all eight have been discharged and have returned to their homes.

Since 2012, the hospital has sent medical teams to conduct support work in Tibet as part of Hubei's aid to the region.

Last year, the hospital helped save the lives of five children with congenital heart disease and three patients with Kashin-Beck disease, a disorder of the bones that leads to deformed joints and shortened stature.

Zhang Jinxiang, deputy head of the hospital, said Union Hospital has been sending doctors from a range of different disciplines to work in Tibet on long-term aid projects since 2008.

"When they first arrive, it is hard for them to perform well due to the high altitude and lower levels of oxygen. Doctors have to wear oxygen masks while performing even small surgeries they could do easily at low altitudes," he said.

"They have been working hard to provide medical services and have also trained medical teams for local hospitals."

Tenzin Drolkar, a beneficiary of the project, said that her family had known for a while that she had heart disease. She was diagnosed after fainting at school, but local hospitals were not equipped to handle her treatment.

"As a result, I couldn't eat hot or oily food, which I love," the 11-year-old said, adding that she can eat everything now that she has recovered.

"I could get out of bed two days after surgery, and the doctors told me that they used the best, minimally invasive procedure."

Phuntsok Yudron, the mother of Tsering Dekyi, said that her 2-year-old daughter had been diagnosed with congenital heart disease four months ago.

"The surgery was successful, and my daughter is recovering very well. I am not worried anymore, and I hope she will grow up happily in the future," she said.