UCTH records first successful open heart surgery

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The University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, UCTH, Calabar, on Wednesday, September 15, 2021, recorded its first successful Open Heart Surgery, the first of its kind in the history of the South-South region of Nigeria.

The teaching hospital said that it took the surgeons involved, six and half hours to perform the operation.

Presenting the report of the Open Heart Surgery, the Chief Medical Director, CMD, of the teaching hospital, Professor of Orthopaedics, Ikpeme A. Ikpeme, noted that the surgery was a product of hard work.

“Today Wednesday, September 15, 2021, at 6.43 pm, history was made in our UCTH, when the first-ever open heart surgery was performed in our hospital and the patient safely wheeled out to our Intensive Care Unit. She had received a Mitral Valve Replacement, following about Six & a half hours of Surgery,” he enthused.

According to him,”this has been the culmination of two years of hard work, determination, sacrifice, vision and focus at different levels of our hospital. And we must offer sincere gratitude to God & all who worked to make this happen. It is the guiding principle of this Management to work quietly to achieve the Vision & Mission of our hospital and reposition her appropriately in the comity of Tertiary Health Institutions in Nigeria.”

“We have driven this agenda by focusing steadily on the 3R mantra and refusing to be distracted. In the words of Obol Ofem Enang to me always, ‘You were a footballer. Ignore the footwork (distractions), and focus on the ball’. But this time, quietness is not the way to go. We must appreciate all staff who made this happen openly,” Ikpeme added.

The medical professor further disclosed that after signing the MOU for Open Heart Surgery in 2015 with VOOM Foundation, and later reviewing it in 2019 with the foundation, the UCTH made a commitment to domesticate and actualise Open Heart Surgery, in the hospital.

“The MOU for Open Heart Surgery Missions was signed with the VOOM Foundation sometime in 2015/16. Things went quiet until the MOU was reviewed with the Foundation in July/August 2019 and UCTH made a commitment to actualise the programme and domesticate open heart surgery in our hospital.

“After two years of sacrificial hard work, doggedness, critical planning and determination against many odds, here we are today. We have had to construct a new Theatre Suite using in-house Engineering and Technical teams, we had to create a multidisciplinary Heart Surgery Team; we had to clear 2Nos 40ft containers from Onne Port, Port Harcourt and invest in equipment worth millions of Naira (Heart-Lung machine, Heater-Cooler interexchanger system, Cell savers, High-end Anaesthetic Machine, high-end monitors, Defibrillator with Internal pads, Ventilators, digital mobile X-ray system, etc). Hours of work went into this project. Professional fathers like Prof O.O. Bassey & Prof C.O.Odigwe came out at short notice & odd hours,” he said.

Ikpeme further commended the efforts of the team and announced that UCTH Is the first tertiary health facility in southern Nigeria to accomplish successfully an open heart surgery.

“When as Management, we showed signs of upset or despair, they held our arms and firmly but gently insisted we must never look back. Today, we are there, & for them & to their eternal recognition, the prophecy has been fulfilled.

“As far as I know, we are the first Tertiary Health Institution in South-South Nigeria to accomplish this and join a group of very few elite centres nationwide. And at this early stage, we are offering these surgeries at 30% of their actual cost. This programme, therefore, does not belong to any individual or administration, it belongs to UCTH and can only be sustained when we choose to be a TEAM.

Our commitment is that as we resuscitate basic services, we will strive to introduce higher-end services that will define our existence as a tertiary centre and contribute to the well-being of our people and community. As resources permit, we will continue to work with Departments & Units that demonstrate a hunger for growth. We may not have always gotten it right, sometimes we have faltered, but we are determined to stay the course, under God, and work to develop this UCTH, our UCTH,” the CMD assured.

Ikpeme, while further acknowledging the hard times the nation is passing through, noted that the success of the surgery came due to firm determination by staff and management of the medical facility, UCTH.

“2021 has been a difficult year for us. Like most other institutions, communities & even nations, UCTH has struggled and remains afloat only by the grace & mercy of God and the dogged determination of her patriotic staff.

“Today’s feat must therefore be seen as just reward for your labours of love & patriotism to our hospital and nation. We salute you.

The UCTH CMD thanked those who made it possible to achieve the feat and the VOOM Foundation, for keeping faith despite our many challenges.

“There is still a lot of work to be done to fully domesticate the procedure. We look forward to the day it will be a routine procedure by an all UCTH team. That is the work that lies ahead. But we have “set sail at dawn” and there will be no looking back. Together we move and set sail to higher plains,” Professor assured.


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