Seven infants with various heart conditions in Iraq found aid from beyond the borders of their country. A delegation of Turkish doctors traveled to Iraq to help children who cannot travel abroad due to restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic. For a week, eight doctors who traveled to Baghdad from Istanbul, performed surgeries on infants who were born with heart defects. Associate professor Dr. Arda Özyüksel, a heart surgeon in the delegation, described it as an emotional experience for them.
Turkey, which evolved into a health tourism hub with developments in medical technologies in the country, as well as a qualified workforce in the health sector and massive health infrastructure investments, is now reaching out to countries in the region. Medical charity work and health infrastructure support by state-run agencies to regional countries flourish nowadays as well.
Özyüksel, who works at Medicana International Hospital in Istanbul, says patients seeking treatment in Turkey face obstacles due to travel restrictions stemming from the pandemic. “We were invited by colleagues in Iraq and are glad to get involved in such international cooperation in medicine,” Özyüksel told Demirören News Agency (DHA) on Tuesday. “We were well prepared and had all data regarding patients before our trip. Patients were prepared for surgeries before our arrival, and we successfully performed surgeries,” he said. The hospital where they worked in Baghdad had the necessary technical infrastructure for heart surgeries on adults, he said, but that was not sufficient due to the lack of technical expertise on the subject in the country. “We are now looking to host our colleagues in Iraq to give them a chance to learn more about children’s heart surgeries,” he said.
The team of doctors worked 24-hour shifts at the hospital in Baghdad where they operated on patients from the capital and nearby regions. “Children’s heart diseases are more prevalent in the Middle East and African countries. Most of the patients we operated on were below the age of 2. Late diagnosis or surgery aggravates the disease in young patients. We would have to wait for months for travel restrictions to be lifted and would lose precious time to help their recovery. So, we decided to travel to Iraq. There are more patients who need surgery, but theirs are not emergencies, and while there, we made arrangements for their treatment in Turkey in the near future,” Özyüksel said. “The families of the children appreciated our work and some even thanked us in Turkish. We remain in contact with them to monitor the post-surgery condition of patients. We will be in touch via social media. It has been an emotional experience for us. We treat many patients from other countries – from the Balkans and Middle Eastern and African countries – in Istanbul, but traveling abroad for this was something different for all of us,” he said.
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