In Honour of the Recipients of the Gift of Life Heart Surgeries
On February 18th 2017, a very special event titled “The Gift of Life Celebration” was organized by the Sai Prema Foundation. This was in honor of the children who had free heart surgeries done in August 2016 by the team from Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeevani Hospital in Raipur, India. The purpose was to celebrate the lives of the children who had congenital heart disease and were given a “Gift of Life” through the surgeries. It was an opportune time to celebrate not just the children who had surgeries but children all over the world with congenital heart disease, as February 7 to 14 marked congenital heart disease awareness week. And what bigger gift can you give someone, than the “Gift of Life”?
The Minister for Health, Hon. Rosy Sofia Akbar, graced the occasion by being the Chief Guest. It was also an honor to have the Permanent Secretary for Health, Mr. Philip Davies, attend the event. The recipients of the surgeries and their families were present and so were many doctors and medical personnel who had helped during the surgeries, together with volunteers and members of the Sai Prema Foundation.
As the children arrived with their parents, it was a joy to see the beautiful smiles on their faces. Many had grown incredibly in the 6 month period. It was almost a reunion for these families as they had spent time together in the hospital during the postoperative period. The beautiful conference hall was decorated with Gift of life banners and the ceiling was filled with red and purple helium balloons.
The ceremony began with a welcome address by the Chairman of the Foundation Mr. Mahendra Tappoo. This was followed by an address by the Medical Coordinator for the foundation, Dr. Krupali Tappoo, who described the journey and the process of coordinating this monumental task. Fiji does not have a pediatric cardiac unit and hence the need to depend on visiting teams. Sai Prema Foundation Fiji was instrumental in facilitating this visit in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and Medical Services which resulted in 25 free congenital heart disease surgeries. She described that one of the greatest experiences of her life was seeing an open beating heart of a child during surgery – truly a breath taking moment. At the conclusion of her speech, many parents, children and members of the audience were left in tears as she recited a poem on children by the famous poet Khalil Gibran.
The Minister for Health spoke highly of the foundation and congratulated the efforts and promised the ongoing support of her Ministry and also the Prime Minister of the country. Next it was time to hear from the recipients of the surgery. A 14-year-old girl spoke about her life after surgery and how well she was feeling. The mother of a 12-month-old baby spoke next and there were tears of joy and gratitude, which left everyone in the audience emotional. A video was then shown of the journey of these children, which included photos and videos pre and post operatively, and a few words by the outstanding surgeon, Dr. Ashish Katewa of the Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeevani Hospital, Raipur, India.
All the children were then given a gift pack, which consisted of many toys, books, stationary items and age appropriate gifts. This also provided a photo opportunity with the Minister for Health and the Foundation Chairman. This was followed by a cake cutting ceremony where all the parents and children participated with a cake specially designed with the “Gift of Life” logo. All the members of the Sai Prema Foundation, children and their parents and the Minister took a group photograph, which would serve as a wonderful memory. The day ended with afternoon tea and a sumptuous spread of snacks, which were enjoyed by all. Truly an extremely amazing event, which will be etched in the memories of everyone that was involved.