“Don’t break my heart!” [Archives:1998/49/Health]

December 7 1998

The Friends of Heart Patients Association (FHPA) has two branches, one in Sanaa and the other in Hadhramaut. The third branch is to be opened shortly. Dr. Ahmed Lotf Al-Motarrib, FHPA vice chairman, is a cardiologist at Al-Thawra hospital and an assistant lecturer at Sanaa University.

Ms. Nadwa Al-Dawsari of Yemen Times talked to Dr. Al-Motarrib and filed this interview:
Q: Can you give us an idea about the FHPA?
A: The Friends of Heart Patients Association was established in 1994 by some cardiologists. It was supported by Dr. Najib Ghanim, then Minister of Health, and some businessmen. The association members are some cardiologists and internists, businessmen, and some heart patients in Yemen.
The FHPA aims at helping heart patients in Yemen, especially those who cannot afford treatment.
The main objective of this association is to establish a national center for heart surgery. This project requires huge amounts of money that we cannot afford at this time.
Q: What services does the FHPA offer heart patients?
A: We opened a clinic in which we offer free treatment for people. Until now we held two conferences and some seminars about cardiac problems in Yemen.
At this time, we publish some leaflets to tell people how to avoid heart problems. You know that some heart diseases like rheumatic fever, hyperlipidemis and ischaemia can be avoided if people follow certain health regimen.
Q: Concerning support, what does the FHPA receive?
A: We only receive YR 240,000 from the Ministry of Social Affairs. When we hold conferences or seminars, we try to get financial support from businessmen, drug companies and also from some governmental associations.
Q: What are the common cardiac diseases in Yemen, and what causes such diseases?
A: A common disease among adults and children aged between one and 15 years in Yemen is rheumatic fever. In this country, family members usually share rooms. For example, more than 5 people sleep in a poorly ventilated room. This causes rheumatic fever. If there is to be a health survey in schools, such disease can be discovered at their early stages, and the treatment will be more effective. Patients, in general, come when they are in a bad condition.
Other common diseases are ischaemia and myocardial infraction, mainly caused by smoking and eating fatty foods. Yemenis smoke cigarettes and hubble bubble too much and for long hours while chewing qat. Imagine that one of the patients we received at the intensive care unit at Al-Thawara Hospital used to smoke 100 cigarettes every day before he ran a serious heart disease. Many Yemenis also do the same.
Another reason is that Yemenis do not care about doing exercise. This causes different heart problems. Stress also causes health problems including some serious heart diseases.
Congenital heart defects are also very common in Yemen.
In general, about 90% of heart patients in Yemen are males.
Q: Are there any public or private hospitals in which heart operations can be performed?
A: Unfortunately, no. The necessary equipment for doing heart surgery are not available here. At Al-Thawra public hospital, we do simple heart operations. We regularly invite experts from Switzerland, Germany and Jordan to Al-Thawra hospital to perform some complicated heart surgery. This is the first step we make towards opening a national heart center, sponsored by the Japanese government, within Al-Thawra Hospital. We expect we’ll be able to operate transcatheters and do other complicated heart operations in this hospital about one year from now. Our real dream is to open an independent national heart center and medical hospital.
Q: So where do heart patients go for treatment?
A: About 12 thousands patients a year go abroad for that purpose. Most of them usually go to Jordan. Others go to Syria, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Those who are rich, go to Germany and Britain. On the other hand, many patients do not go to any place because they cannot afford treatment expenses abroad.