What happens within the walls of Ukraine’s only and one of the world’s best centers, where the babies with the congenital heart disease are operated on during the first few hours after birth? What do the real doctors talk about? Are they similar to soap opera characters? What is bothering them and what hinders them from performing better work? In the height of the summer, the journalist Roman Barashev and I spent two days in the Center for Pediatric Cardiology and Cardiac Surgeryof the Ministry of Healthcare of Ukraine. We went around the building, looked in the wards, spoke with Ilya Nikolayevich Yemets – the world-renowned cardiac surgeon, talented scientist and head of the Center. The name of Ilya Yemets will repeatedly be mentioned in the history of Ukraine along with the word “first”: the first surgery of the new-born baby, suffering from themost complex heart disease, in the history of the country (1992), the first world’s practice on implementing a surgical treatment of prenatally diagnosed complex congenital heart diseases within the first hours of life, using the umbilical cord blood (2010). And soon, hopefully, the head of the world’s first state medical institution, on the basis of which the vessels and heart valves, derived from amniotic stem cells, will be produced and transplanted to patients. Anthony Atala, Director of the Wake Forest Institute (USA), the leading bioengineer and expert in growing human cells and organs, arrived to Kyiv in July to start the joint high-tech project, which is the only one of its kind in the world.
We have also been to the operating room of the cardiac center. The fates are literally decided behind these doors. Putting the sterile clothes on and promising not to lose consciousness from the doorway, we saw how smoothly and masterly the team works, surrounding the little patient’s body. The girl is just one month old, the congenital heart disease, Down syndrome, underwent 4 surgeries…It seems that she is a hopeless child, but here the parents are given hope. Opposite, in the intensive care unit, little babies are waiting for their mommies from the maternity ward: someone is one day old, someone – two, they were taken and operated on within few hours after birth. When you are looking close at all of this, there is only one thought in your mind: my God, what a responsibility that must be – to hold somebody’s little life in your hands, to give hope to a child, parents. Probably, those, who save lives, should feel some superiority over people of other professions. In any case, they have serious grounds for that.
The Center does not have the atmosphere of oppressive despair, typical for medical institutions hospital smells and dark long corridors. The beautiful square is outside. Inside it is newly rehabbed, with fine furniture and new expensive equipment. However, when you go outside the building, you cannot whisk away the thought that you have been to “the other side of the line”. These children might already not live, but they made it. They made it only thanks to Yemets and his team. Today, the Center, chaired by him, is the most powerful not only in the Eastern, but also in the Western Europe. In the last year alone, in CPCCS, over 35.8 ths patients were consulted, about 4.8 ths were hospitalized, 3,054 were operated on. At the same time, the postoperative lethality in CPCCS does not exceed 1%. Even in the best Western European and U.S. clinics, this rate is 2-3%. Meanwhile, the Center for Pediatric Cardiac Surgery has the status of international medical institution: the international treatment program for newborn babies and children with the congenital heart disease operates in the Center. Over the past few years, hundreds of foreign patients were consulted and operated on here. These are the additional financing, the prestige of Ukrainian medicine, national prestige. “I am just sorry that the politicians do not wonder that by providing medical assistance to the representatives of neighboring countries, we can improve and remedy relationships between the states”, Ilya Nikolayevich says.