The chil­dren make it worth­while

Friday - - Society -

The nor­mally reclu­sive sur­geon has put him­self at the fore­front of Chain of Hope’s quest to raise more money for Ethiopian chil­dren.

Dr Khan says, “Bill Gates makes his ar­gu­ment for aid by talk­ing about the lives of all chil­dren hav­ing equal value and he’s right.

“We must also make sure this is re­flected in medicine and health­care.

“When a child be­comes sick in the UK, ev­ery­thing is done for them. In Ethiopia and other poor coun­tries, noth­ing is done.

“They are lucky if some­thing – any­thing – is done for them.

“With­out surgery, th­ese chil­dren we treat have no chance to grow or have a nor­mal phys­i­cal life, go to school, get mar­ried.

“They have no ac­cess to health­care, there is no safety net for them...”

Dur­ing this mis­sion, Dr Khan and his team are treat­ing nine pa­tients, at a cost of around £30,000 to the char­ity.

Most of Dr Khan’s Ethiopian pa­tients suf­fer from rheumatic heart disease, a con­di­tion that has now been all but erad­i­cated in theWestern world. It is a re­sult of rheumatic fever, which de­vel­ops fol­low­ing a bac­te­rial in­fec­tion and can at­tack the valves of the heart if left un­treated and re­quires surgery.

But Ethiopia is just one of the coun­tries Dr Khan vis­its to treat sick chil­dren for Chain of Hope.

He flies out on two or three med­i­cal mis­sions ev­ery year, to coun­tries in­clud­ing Mozam­bique, Egypt, Ja­maica and Pak­istan, where he was born. Ev­ery­where, the chil­dren bowl him over – and some get un­der his skin.

He says, “I will never for­get this lit­tle boy in Pak­istan who just couldn’t stop run­ning around af­ter his heart op.

“I don’t think he’d ever been able to run in his life be­fore – for him it was such a nov­elty. He just kept look­ing at me and smil­ing. Those mo­ments stay with you in life.”

It might sound like surgery was a vo­ca­tion for Dr Khan – but ac­tu­ally, just like Ti­liku, he grew up dream­ing of be­ing an engi­neer.

He ex­plains, “My dad was study­ing at a Lon­don univer­sity so I moved to Eng­land with my fam­ily when I was six months old.

“Af­ter he grad­u­ated we moved back to Pak­istan, where he set up a busi­ness in the glass in­dus­try.

“I al­ways wanted to be an engi­neer be­cause I grew up watch­ing my dad in his fac­tory but my maths was ter­ri­ble and I had to ad­mit de­feat even­tu­ally.

“My mum sug­gested medicine. My grand­fa­ther was a pro­fes­sor of or­thopaedics and my un­cle was a heart sur­geon so there was some fam­ily his­tory.

“Af­ter I qual­i­fied as a doc­tor I spent four years in Syd­ney and that’s where I started do­ing heart surgery. I quickly be­came pas­sion­ate about it be­cause it’s chal­leng­ing but it’s amaz­ing how quickly peo­ple get bet­ter.

“You might see an old man who can’t walk his dog and that re­ally mat­ters to him. Af­ter surgery, the qual­ity of life changes com­pletely and it’s very re­ward­ing.”

For Ethiopian doc­tor Be­lay Abegaz, just watch­ing Dr Khan at work has been some­thing he will never for­get.

He says, “We didn’t give him sim­ple cases this week but the surgery he per­formed has been quick and suc­cess­ful. I am very ex­cited by his work.

“I want to tie him to this spot and keep him here in Ethiopia for­ever.”

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