Fainting, dizziness, shortness of breath and chest pains may all be indicators of a serious heart condition—but what do people do if they live in a place where the specialist heart doctors they need are simply not there? What if it was impossible to get treatment for your medical condition within your home country? What if your only hope of health, wellness and a fully active life is a trip overseas to another country where they have the technology and training to fix your broken heart—but you don’t have the means to do it?
This is the situation many people who suffer with heart conditions in Timor-Leste, formerly known as East Timor, face. East Timor Hearts Fund was formed to address this need. In September 2010, Dr Noel Bayley was trying to help two young Timorese women find funding to take them to Australia for life saving heart valve surgery. In his frustration he approached the media to share their story and he was amazed at the response he received. Individuals and businesses pledged financial assistance and just six weeks later thirty thousand dollars in donations had been given. This was the beginning of East Timor Hearts Fund, which in the past six years has helped 30 patients receive surgery in Australia, and allowed hundreds of patients to be examined in Timor-Leste by cardiac specialists.
MAF Pilot Jason Job flew Dr Noel Bayley and others to Oecusse to conduct a heart clinic. Oecusse is a small enclave of Timor-Leste, which is separated from the rest of the country by Indonesian territory. Travelling there from Dili, Timor-Leste’s capital city is difficult. Road travel involves acquiring visas and driving on poor road conditions. Travel by sea takes many hours and requires staff to overnight in the region, so air travel makes this journey considerably quicker and easier for the passengers.
Dr Bayley says, “We were grateful to MAF. For giving us a discounted rate, and for the excellent service.”
While the medical professionals were in Oecusse, they were able to examine nineteen patients, from small infants to an eighty year old man. “Sadly, we saw a couple of teenagers with such advanced disease that they are beyond surgical help. This is avoidable, with proper preventative programs, early assessment, and good access to surgical treatment where needed, and serves as a reminder of why we are here.”
The staff from East Timor Hearts believe that this was the first time that a team of cardiac specialists had visited Oecusse. So when they arrived at the airport, they were officially welcomed by Dr Mari Alkatiri, President of the Oecusse region and then taken for a tour of the new hospital complex that is being built there. Everyone was presented with woven tais, as a way of welcoming and honouring them as their guests. Pilot, Jason Job said, “it was great to fly this team and witness first-hand what they do to help people who don’t have the means to afford this kind of treatment.”
MAF’s vision is to see isolated people physically and spiritually transformed in Christ’s name. By providing transportation for passengers such as the staff from East Timor Hearts Fund, we are fulfilling this aim. Dr Bayley says, “My greatest joy is to see the patients who've had the procedures. They are often very ill when I first meet them, with limited life expectancy. To see them well and enjoying life again is a source of huge satisfaction to us all.”