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Heart Health

12 September 2019

A whopping R2.7m raised for heart operations at Nelson Mandela Children's Hospital

Jacaranda FM’s ‘Angel’ listeners and two South Africans who drove a VW Beetle through Africa to Europe, have made heart surgeries possible for 67 children.

Congenital heart disease is the most common birth defect in children, and in South Africa many of these children’s families cannot afford private healthcare and are entirely reliant on state hospitals for care and treatment.

Globally, one in every 100 children is born with a congenital heart disease. In South Africa alone, there are 11 000 children born with defects, and medical experts are struggling to keep up with the high number of cases, reports EWN

However, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital (NMCH) was thrilled to receive an unexpected, large, single gift of R2.7m after one of Jacaranda FM’s presenters, Martin Bester, visited the hospital on Mandela Day this year. He had one goal in mind: to raise enough money to finance 10 heart operations at the world-class healthcare facility – but expectations were far exceeded.

The hospital, although semi-state funded, gets referrals from State hospitals to perform paediatric heart operations for children whose families cannot afford to pay for medical care. The operations cost, on average, a massive R40 000 each, making it financially impossible for many families.

The VW Bug that crossed countries

The good news of a much-needed donation came after Jacaranda FM’s Breakfast show broadcasted for three hours from the hospital on 18 July, and managed to rake in enough money for 30 operations. That was R1.2m, and during the day after the show, more donations streamed in, bringing the total to R1.8m. But that was not the end of the good news.  

A 1970s VW Beetle, named the Boikanyo Bug, departed on a lengthy 14 500 km journey through Africa in a bid to raise additional funds. The team consisted of two drivers, Leigh Michael and Alex Staniland, whose journey ended at the International Round Table Conference in Dracula’s Castle, Transylvania, Romania.

The Bug was then auctioned off for €10 000 (about R161 000) towards the fundraising, and the buyers drove it another 3 000 km all the way to Norway. In total, the Boikanyo project contributed R900 000.

Reflecting on "nervous" moments they encountered through their journey, Michael told listeners about challenges they experienced in Malawi.

“We had protests in Malawi. The Bug broke down, in total, eight times,” to which Staniland added: “We actually spent more on oil than we did on fuel.” 

However, they added that Malawi is not called the "warm heart of Africa" without a reason as it was the most amazing hospitality they had ever received.

'This makes a hell of a difference'

A cheque for R2.7m (which would cover 67 operations) was handed over to Professor Hopewell Ntsinjana on behalf of the Round Table Boikanyo Bug drivers and Good Morning Angels – representing all Jacaranda FM’s listeners.

Speaking on-air to Bester about the difference the good news of an operation makes to the children with the debilitating condition, Ntsinjana said: “Really, I think you only have to look in the patient's eyes or their parents' eyes to realise what a difference this makes.

“Whenever we call these kids to come to the hospital for surgery, they [their parents] are already rolling up their sleeves, ready to run, to grab that opportunity, because they know – their child is not going to miss school anymore; they’ll be able to go back without any interruptions... 

“Even physically, you realise that the child can put in more effort; they can play with their peers after the surgery. So, really, this makes a hell of a difference, more than the Angels and the people who supported the Boikanyo Drive can ever imagine.”      

Image: Jacaranda FM