Performing cardiac miracles since 1968
77-year-old doctor has a passion for saving lives, writes Nabeelah Shaikh
WHILE many people his age would be long into retirement, world-renowned heart surgeon Professor Rob Kinsley, 77, is still performing miracles on the operating table.
Durban’s Kinsley, who pioneered paediatric cardiac surgery, has performed more than 15 000 open heart surgeries during his decorated career.
He is now launching a foundation to save the lives of African children born with congenital heart defects who do not have access to medical aid.
Congenital heart defects arise from problems with the structure of the heart that are present at birth.
After 50 years of heart surgery, Kinsley said his life’s purpose would not be fulfilled if he did not leave behind a legacy.
Kingsley is expected to launch the Children’s Cardiac Foundation of Africa in association with Lenmed ethekwini Hospital and Heart Centre at a function to be held in his honour at the Oyster Box Hotel in umhlanga on Wednesday.
Kinsley said there were thousands of children in Kwazulu-natal, born with congenital heart defects who could not afford private health care and were also unable to get the necessary treatment at state hospitals due to a serious skills shortage.
“It is imperative that a foundation be formed to help these little patients. The Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central hospital has a critical backlog of paediatric cardiac patients waiting to receive treatment. There is a long waiting list and that waiting will potentially become a death list if nothing is done,” said Kingsley. “My vision is to help save as many lives as I can, while I am still able to.”
He said he often received requests from all over Africa regarding children who desperately needed treatment and the long-term vision of the foundation was to extend life-saving heart surgery to them.
“The plan is to start in Durban with the help of the ethekwini Hospital and Heart Centre and then look at how we can help with cases across Africa.”
Kinsley said in addition to providing critical heart surgery to children not covered by medical aid, the foundation aimed to provide opportunities to doctors across Africa to come to Kwazulu-natal, be trained here and go back to their home countries with the skills to perform cardiac surgery.
Kinsley’s career as a heart surgeon Professor Rob Kinsley and ethekwini Hospital and Heart Centre manager Niresh Bechan are excited about the launch of the Children’s Cardiac Foundation of Africa on Wednesday.
began in 1968, a year after Dr Christiaan Barnard conducted the world’s first human heart transplant at the Groote Schuur hospital. He said this event inspired him to also become a pioneer in the field of heart surgery.
Kinsley took a particular interest in paediatric heart surgery in the 1970s, after spending two years studying at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, in the US. The clinic was
the only place in the world that performed complex congenital heart disease operations at the time.
“During my time there, I saw children who were blue in colour come in, desperate for help. Watching their lives being saved after receiving treatment really made me want to pursue paediatric cardiac surgery,” said Kingsley.
In 1978, Kinsley made headlines worldwide when he performed a world first heart surgery on baby Jacques Nagel, who was born with an extremely rare condition – the blood from his lungs had been draining to his liver instead of his heart.
Nagel was subsequently named “the boy with the heart of an ox”. Kinsley used bovine tissue to enlarge the heart of Nagel, who was only 18 months old at the time.
“Through the years, paediatric heart surgery has evolved and so much has changed. From having to perform delicate procedures with limited resources, we are now able to use state of the art equipment to perform surgery,” said Kingsley.
“Much of this equipment is available at the ethekwini Heart Hospital and that’s one of the reasons why the board has been fully supportive of the foundation,” said Kinsley.
His passion for his work sees him maintain relationships with many patients, long after they have recovered.
One such patient, Andrew Lake, is now an annual Dusi Canoe Marathon participant from Durban North. He was operated on by Kinsely in 2016.
“My cardiac surgeon recommended Dr Kinsley because he was the only one that would have the expertise to do the operation I required,” said Lake.
At the launch of the Children’s Cardiac Foundation of South Africa on Wednesday, Lake and several other of Kinsley’s former patients are expected to share their stories on the how heart surgeries, performed by Kingsley, enabled them to live successful lives despite having once suffered serious heart defects.
People who want to support the development of Children’s Cardiac Foundation of Africa can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr Darshan Reddy and Professor Rob Kinsley with 2-and-a-half-year-old Lubanzi Ndlovu, who underwent heart surgery at the ethekwini Hospital and Heart Centre.