A group of 15 children from Tibet arrived at the Shanghai Children’s Hospital yesterday to undergo free heart surgery, Shanghai Daily reports.
The children, ranging from four months to 10 years old, traveled with their families from Xigaze for treatment as part of a charity project offered by the Shanghai government.
A team of volunteers fluent in the Tibetan language were on hand to assist the children and their families, many of whom had never left their hometowns before.
Most of the children will undergo surgery at Shanghai Children’s Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of Fudan University. Both medical centers are involved with the project.
Shanghai and Xigaze linked in 1994 to launch a program encouraging Chinese cities to provide financial and medical assistance to impoverished people in need. Two years ago, Shanghai’s government began offering free heart surgery to children with congenital heart defects in Xigaze. So far, 50 children have received treatment through the project.
Beijing previously extended a similar offer to children living in rural China. In February, 46 children diagnosed with congenital heart disease traveled from Yunnan to the capital’s Tsinghua University First Affiliated Hospital to receive free operations.
According to the Chinese Medical Doctors Association, around 150,000 babies are born every year in China with congenital heart disease, but less than half of them are able to receive proper or timely treatment due to their remote locations. Children who grow up in the mountainous western regions are especially at risk because of the high altitude.
Dr. Sun Kun from Shanghai Xinhua Hospital previously stressed how important it is to detect the disease early on. “In places like Shanghai, a heart scan that costs a little more than 100 yuan can detect congenital heart disease even the baby is still in the womb,” he told People’s Daily. “However, delayed diagnosis for children in remote areas means they miss the best opportunity for treatment.”
[Image via Xinhua]