William Novick, a children’s heart surgeon from the United States, leads an international team of experts, the Novick Cardiac Alliance, in traveling to Libya and performing operations on child patients.
“To me this is simply an unacceptable situation that needs our attention,” said Novick of the country and the availability of healthcare services for citizens. The situation in Libya is extremely dire, with the latest fighting erupting last spring and killing hundreds of civilians.
One patient of Novick’s was one-year-old Yazan, born with an extraordinarily rare disorder: a single heart chamber instead of four. Novick’s team was the only hope left for the infant. Yazan and his family travelled over 1,500 km to Tripoli to undergo a five hour surgery to repair his heart, which was successful. Yazan will require additional surgery and is expected to make a full recovery.
The World Health Organization (WHO) describes the Libyan health care system as overworked, unproductive and lacking in medicine and equipment.
About 1,200 babies with heart defects are born in Libya annually. It is estimated that around 150 of them are in urgent need of heart operations. Most do not get them and die before their first birthday.