Warrnambool cardiologist Dr Noel Bayley has set an ambitious goal.
He aims to raise $20,000 in 20 days for an East Timorese teen who needs life-saving heart surgery.
“It’s a big ask but I think we can do it,” Dr Bayley said.
Alia Borges, 15, has critical rheumatic heart disease and Dr Bayley is appealing to south-west residents to help raise the money needed to perform open heart surgery.
“Surgery in Australia is Alia’s only hope,” Dr Bayley said.
“There is no way for her to have treatment in her country – the facilities just don’t exist.”
The East Timor Hearts Fund (ETHF) co-founder and honorary medical adviser has carried out pro bono work in the country for the past 15 years.
Dr Bayley travels to East Timor three times a year as part of a voluntary medical team. He identified Alia’s condition during screening clinics earlier this year.
Dr Bayley said the heart valve damage was caused by childhood rheumatic fever, a condition largely eradicated in the developed world but still prevalent in developing countries like East Timor.
Dr Bayley said Alia’s condition was so advanced that she required a double heart valve replacement, which would involve complex, five-hour open heart surgery.
Barwon Health’s University Hospital in Geelong has agreed to treat Alia and the ETHF has established a crowdfunding campaign.
“In particular I’m counting on the continued generosity of people from Warrnambool and the Western District. ETHF was founded six years ago, and from day one, local people and foundations have played a huge part in its success,” he said.
The former First Lady of East Timor, Dr Kirsty Sword Gusmao AO, will launch the campaign on Tuesday, which coincides with World Heart Day.
Dr Bayley said it would be particularly rewarding to assist Alia, as she aspired to be a doctor and wanted to help others with heart disease.
“Helping this lass to live will be a blessing to her and her family, but will also support a young woman who has the potential to make a real contribution to her nation in the future,” Dr Bayley said.
Where patients can be assisted in Australia, the ETHF arranges treatment through partners including Barwon Health, Royal Melbourne Hospital, MonashHeart and Monash Health.
The fund provides flights, accommodation, food, clothes and other needs. Patient support volunteers provide hospital visits, Timorese food and other social support while they’re in Australia. The 20-day campaign ends on October 17. To donate go to chuffed.org from Tuesday.