Tuesday, 26 November 2019, Mrs Natascha Oliversen, who grew up in Namibia but who has been living in the Philippines with her husband for the past 18 years, recently underwent an intricate life-saving procedure in South Africa to repair her damaged heart valve…

Mrs Oliversen was diagnosed with a severely leaking heart valve by a cardiologist in the Philippines, who advised her to say farewell to her family members in case she did not survive the open-heart surgery required to repair it.

Instead she benefitted from a minimally invasive ‘keyhole’ heart valve repair procedure, which was undertaken by a team led by cardiothoracic surgeon, Professor Jacques Scherman and surgeon Dr Otto Thaning, at Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital in Cape Town.

Minimally invasive

“I did not even know that such a minimally invasive approach was available to repair damaged heart valves, and my husband and I are over the moon that I was able to undergo this procedure in Cape Town. Prior to the operation I was really starting to feel the effects of my leaking heart valve and was deeply concerned about my future,” says an elated Mrs Oliversen. “At my most recent follow-up, Dr Thaning said that the repair was so good that he couldn’t even see that I had one. I am already feeling much stronger and have renewed hope for the future,” she adds.

Dr Thaning — who trained under Professor Christiaan Barnard — says that Professor Scherman has established minimally invasive heart valve repair centres at Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital, as well as at UCT Private Academic and Groote Schuur hospitals, where he successfully undertakes many heart valve repair and replacement procedures every year.

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“Ideal candidate”

“Professor Scherman and his team did a superb job with Mrs Oliversen’s surgery. She was an ideal candidate for a heart valve repair rather than a valve replacement. A repair tends to be more durable and we fully expect Mrs Oliversen to be able to resume all her normal activities soon and get back to living a completely normal life,” says Dr Thaning.

Mrs Oliversen said that she had been quite frightened prior to the surgery and keeping in mind the advice given to her by her cardiologist in the Philippines to see her family prior to having the valve repair operation, she travelled to Namibia to visit her family, where she encountered an old friend who had undergone cancer treatment at Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital.

Mrs Oliversen said that she had been quite frightened prior to the surgery

“My friend said that she had fantastic treatment at the facility, so I thought I would look into what cardiac treatments they offer. I first saw cardiologist, Dr Faizel Lorgat at the hospital, who reassured me that there was an outstanding team at the facility doing heart valve repair and replacement procedures. I then did extensive research into both the team and hospital and became convinced that this was the best option for me,” she adds.

“My medical insurer tried to persuade me to have the operation either in Singapore, the UK [United Kingdom] or in Norway, where my husband and I were in the process of relocating, but I told them I had researched it carefully and believed that the best possible treatment for my condition was being offered by the team at Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital. And I can tell you, my husband and I are really grateful that we insisted on being treated there.”

Mrs Oliversen was effusive in her praise for the care she received at Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital. “The doctors and staff at the hospital were so caring; it’s clear that their work is a calling to them rather than a job. Dr Thaning is one of the most compassionate doctors I have ever met. I would recommend the hospital and its doctors to anyone and will have no hesitation in returning to South Africa for treatment should I ever encounter major health problems again,” she concludes.


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