Doctors’ generosity saves mother’s life

by MedicMall Admin


Australian expertise has given a mother of two the chance of a longer life with her family, thanks to a heart procedure not available in her native Papua New Guinea. 

Dr Tina Yarong, a paediatrician, needed a valve replacement to treat the mitral stenosis which had already forced her to undergo open-heart surgery as a 13-year-old in 1996.

Her older sister died due to the same condition in 2008, aged just 27, and Dr Yarong’s condition deteriorated again in 2021 while studying for a Masters in Child Health. 

“Tina’s mitral valve was heavily diseased and without the surgery she would likely get more and more short of breath and then go into heart failure,” said cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Ross Mejia, who performed her procedure at Lake Macquarie Private Hospital in Gateshead.

“On average her life expectancy without surgery would have been three to five years.” 

Dr Yarong was referred to Dr Mejia by Associate Professor John Ferguson of the University of Newcastle, who had been contacted by a colleague in Papua New Guinea during fundraising for the operation, which was expected to cost around $70,000.

“Over the last two years, I progressively became symptomatic with increased tiredness and atrial fibrillations,” Dr Yarong said.

“Surgery wasn’t available in PNG so I sought quotations from the Philippines and India. The arrangements that have since come to pass are a blessing.”

After receiving approval from Lake Macquarie Private Hospital CEO Sharon Rewitt, Dr Mejia approached several other doctors, who agreed to volunteer their services, while medical supplier Medtronic donated the new heart valve.

“It was fulfilling to be able to use our abilities and resources at Lake Macquarie Private Hospital to help someone in need of this challenging surgery,” Dr Mejia said. 

“This procedure is something we do regularly, but I understand it’s not available in PNG.”

After just over two months in Australia, Dr Yarong has returned home to continue her recovery and resume her life – she is one of two paediatricians working at a 300-bed hospital in Port Moresby.

“I am looking forward to reuniting with my sons and family,” she said before her departure. 

“I also plan to return to work and continue providing child health specialist services. 

“My family and I are indebted to Professor John Ferguson and Dr Mejia for initiating this journey of mine. It has been an amazing experience.”


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