Thai-Lao Medical Cooperation Brings Hope to Lao Infants with Congenital Heart Defects

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China’s ‘Love Heart Journey' Offers Lifeline to Lao Children Battling Heart Disease
A heart disease patient from Laos receives color Doppler ultrasound check at Yunnan Fuwai Cardiovascular Hospital. (photoL Yang Jinghao)

A medical collaboration between Laos and Thailand is demonstrating early successes in assisting Lao infants diagnosed with congenital heart defects. The first infant, who underwent surgery in Thailand on November 22, 2023, has returned home in good health, as reported by Dr. Somsak Pratiphannawat, the director of Nong Khai Hospital in northeastern Thailand, on January 23. Currently, 36 Lao infants are scheduled to receive free surgeries in Thai hospitals throughout 2024.

The collaborative effort involves the Thai Red Cross Society, Chulalongkorn Hospital, and the Pediatric Cardiac Surgery Foundation, working in conjunction with Laos’ Public Health Ministry and partner hospitals to address the pressing need for specialized medical interventions in the neighboring country.

The importance of cooperation becomes evident in cases like the one involving the second baby scheduled for surgery. Requiring more advanced treatment and medical equipment, the infant was promptly transferred to Chulalongkorn Hospital in Bangkok.

To facilitate the seamless transportation of the child, Nong Khai Hospital appealed for public cooperation on Tuesday. Through social media channels, the hospital urged motorists to assist in the passage of an ambulance transporting infants to Bangkok.

After the surgery, the patient will undergo rehabilitation at Nong Khai Hospital until deemed ready to return home. Dr. Somsak Pratiphannawat expressed confidence that the remaining patients identified under the scheme would undergo their surgeries in Thailand by the year’s end.

Nong Khai Hospital has taken on the responsibility of screening all 37 patients covered by the collaborative scheme. The hospital will either provide necessary treatment or refer infants to other hospitals in Thailand equipped with the resources needed for their care.

In a parallel project in late November 2023, a group of five Lao children, ranging from eight months to 12 years old, and their parents went to Kunming, China, under the “Love Heart Journey” program. Facilitated by the Belt and Road Initiative, the initiative aims to provide free medical treatment for congenital heart disease among Lao children. The project is a collaboration between the China Charity Federation, the Yunnan provincial government, and Yunnan Fuwai Cardiovascular Hospital.