Foundation sees increase of babies with heart illness

Head of the Sir Victor Sassoon Heart Foundation R.E. Barnes recently revealed that the non-charitable organization is seeing an increasing number of infants under the age of one being diagnosed with heart illnesses.

In the past 49 years the Heart Foundation has helped more than 4,000 children suffering from heart disease receive medical care both here and abroad.

Barnes said while the majority of children being helped by the foundation are under the age of 10, more and more parents are coming to the foundation for financial assistance with costly surgeries.

“Heart disease is a major concern and even though it’s a silent killer it is a very rapid and increasingly very serious concern for persons,” he said. “People really need to be concerned about this because it can affect your longevity and the time you get to spend with your family as well.”

According to Barnes, nearly half of the children helped by the Heart Foundation each year are infants. He added that in some cases children even as young as three months are undergoing heart surgery.

“We’re finding now that out of the 10 to 15 children we assist a year, four or five of them are under the age of one,” said Barnes.

Barnes added that half of those cases are referred for medical care in the United States, which in most cases triples the cost of care.

He added that the funding of surgeries each year by the foundation continues to be a costly venture. According to him, each surgery can cost on average up to $100,000, placing a serious burden on the foundation that fully operates from the charity of others. Still, Barnes said a lifelong partnership with Jackson Memorial Hospital has helped to reduce some of those costs. Earlier this year it was feared that cost-cutting exercises at the Miami-based medical facility would end their partnership. But Barnes said so far that has not happened, and Jackson Memorial has continued to keep the Heart Foundation’s account active, allowing local children to continue to be treated there.

Still he said despite that good news, there is still a need for additional financial help.

“Funding is critical. We totally depend on funds from the public to pay the expenses of the foundation. We’re on Cable Beach and we welcome donations. But we count on the public’s support for virtually 100 percent of what we do,” Barnes said. “We really do need their continued support to be able to do this for the children. We’ve had a marvelous record through the years helping thousands of children and without support that could not have happened.”

Anyone wanting to help the Heart Foundation can contact their West Bay Street office at 327-0806.

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