At the cutting edge of health
When Martin Kepa looks into a mirror, the Papua New Guinea man will be reminded of the expertise of surgeons in a hospital far, far away. That hospital is ours. Martin Kepa is the latest in a long line of patients to benefit at Waikato Hospital from what some might call medical miracles.
Until last weekend the 28-year-old had a tumour on the side of his face. The mass of blood vessels started growing when he was 8, and 20 years on it was the size of a grapefruit. A 12-hour operation to remove it was the latest chapter in a story of a man’s generosity. Bruce Forlong, an Auckland businessman, organised the operation after e-mailing ‘‘every plastic surgeon I could find in New Zealand’’ and set up a fund to add to the thousands of dollars he had donated. The only positive answer came from Hamilton. Otago University graduate Zac Moaveni, clinical head of Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Waikato Hospital, organised a team which donated its time last Saturday. The picture on the front of Wednesday’s Waikato Times of a beaming Mr Kepa, minus the tumour, was inspirational.
Another who has enjoyed public accolades after groundbreaking theatre work is Sanjeevan Pasupati, son of longtime Te Kuiti GP Jega Pasupati. His work on heart operations has enabled patients to be up and active within days. Earlier this year Waikato became the first hospital in New Zealand where the ‘‘transcatheter aortic valve implementation’’ procedure was performed. It involves replacing the aortic valve without open heart surgery.
Shooting victim Matthew Purchase owes his continuing recovery to the expertise of brain surgeon Dr Venkataraman Balakrishnan. Mr Purchase was hit by a bullet at close range last December and is now in a rehabilitation unit in England. Earlier still, conjoined twins Abbey and Sarah Hose were operated on by Askar Kukkady in October 2004. His work was reported internationally and in late 2007 he and his team were honoured at the New Zealand Health Innovation Awards. A month later he was running a workshop at which two children underwent operations to remove cysts. They were left with two small puncture wounds. The standard procedure would have involved major surgery and scarring.
Waikato Hospital has also been involved in some catch-up work. The hospital is the first in the country to offer a test for Down Syndrome which has a 95 per cent success rate. The test has been available for a decade in the UK and in the next seven years it is expected a foolproof system will be developed.
Hospitals and the health system are under constant scrutiny and when mistakes are made – as appears to be the case in Wanganui where a toddler died a day after being sent home when he had meningococcal septicaemia — there are immediate calls for accountability, or heads to roll. Waikato Hospital is not perfect, and there will continue to be complaints about everything from carparking to waiting list times, but we should applaud and celebrate the success stories which so frequently come out of it.