The Phoenicia are supporting Katrina Aquilina, founder of Beating Hearts Malta, by hosting an exhibition of paintings by Beating Hearts Chairman Professor Victor Grech in the Palm Court Lounge from August 23 to September 3, to help raise funds for equipment at Mater Dei’s Cardiac Lab. Professor Victor Grech leads the Paediatric Cardiology Services at Mater Dei Hospital.
Beating Hearts Malta (BHM), was established primarily to support parents and children born with heart problems or defects, specifically the condition known as congenital heart disease. Beating Hearts Malta is kicking off an initiative aimed at funding research and contributing towards the attendance by doctors working in adult and paediatric cardiology at conferences and courses.
With great fortitude, Katrina Aquilina explains that she decided to put her time and energy into establishing BHM in 2011, soon after her first-born child was diagnosed with congenital heart disease at three weeks old, and Katrina had to fly with him in an air ambulance to Great Ormond Street hospital where he had the first of 4 life-saving procedures that have given him 50% use of his heart.
Katrina says quite matter-of-factly, “We were virtually told after the second operation that we should prepare for the worst. It was completely overwhelming to think that was my baby, seeing him so sick and clinging to life. However, within a week he was responding to the treatments and care, and now you would hardly know that he’s had to face more than most adults, even though he’s only 8! What we didn’t know back then is that about 8 out of every 1000 persons are affected by congenital heart disease. It’s much more common than you think.”
Katrina continues, “Some heart defects may be insignificant and may disappear over time. Others are extremely serious and life threatening requiring surgical intervention at birth and during the course of one’s life, as in our case. We cannot thank Professor Grech and other healthcare professionals enough for the work they do to save lives. And I am glad that BHM has been able to promote awareness and help educate social care professionals, employers, insurers and the general public about the existence and the needs of people with CHD. We will keep at it, raising money, raising awareness, and helping others who find themselves in this life-shattering situation. It’s possible to lead an almost normal life when you have the support of others.”
Recognising what she and her family had been through, and not wanting others to feel confused or isolated when dealing with their illness, Katrina felt it vital that other congenital heart disease sufferers have access to a support group, advice, some counselling and to be able to share their experiences with others who are facing this debilitating illness. Katrina and other volunteers have so far raised over €200,000 which has been used to purchase much-needed equipment at Mater Dei, matched by financial input from the Government.
The latest fund-raising activity, with paintings on display at The Phoenicia’s Palm Court Lounge as well as 3 other local hotels and in 3 international centres, is one of the many activities organised over the last 7 years including birthday parties, Christmas fund-raisers, events, courting corporate donors and through the public’s generosity via donations, Katrina and her team have helped turn hard news into hope for many Maltese families and their children.
“The paintings are selling fast from Facebook,” she says breathlessly, as she rushes from one venue to another. “We’ve managed to donate an Echo machine, as well as a special exercise testing machine called a CPET, which allows doctors to perform a sophisticated stress test, and now we’re working on raising the necessary funds for a state-of-the art genetics testing machine, we’re very excited about being able to contribute these diagnostics and to make Malta more self-sufficient in this area. It will help a lot of families.”
Katrina says with a smile, “We’re just so grateful for all the help we’ve been getting with the paintings and exhibition, everyone at the hotel has been so kind. It’s funny to think that so many good things could have come from all this. Open heart surgery has brought us all together!”
If you would like to encourage other survivors and caregivers on a regular basis, or buy a painting, or to make a donation please email Katrina at: [email protected]
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