A young woman in the Congo prepares for a life-saving heart surgery
Elliott Tenpenny moved to Impfondo, Republic of the Congo, last year with his wife and two sons to serve as an emergency medicine physician at Pioneer Christian Hospital.
Ninelle’s story began a few years ago. She suffers from a disease we have addressed before, rheumatic heart disease. This disease affects many people throughout Africa, and while it’s preventable, it’s silent until it’s far too late.
While Ninelle was growing up, sleeping in close quarters with many of her brothers and sisters, she most likely contracted an infection multiple times without receiving treatment. This infection led to the silent destruction of her heart valves.
With this disease, the blood can’t be pumped throughout the body. The person feels as though she’s slowly drowning to death from the backup of blood and fluid in her lungs. Unless something is done, the person inevitably dies from heart and lung failure, often at a young age.
At 27 years old, Ninelle has already lived far longer than many people who suffer from this disease. Also, in testament to her strength during this time, she has given birth to three children. Nevertheless, it has become progressively more difficult for her to breathe. Since my arrival here, she has been in and out of the hospital.
Her family is one of the more supportive in the area. Last year, we gave her grandfather, who is a retired pastor with bad eyesight, an audio Bible. The family has been caring for her around the clock for the last few months.
Recently, we were able to send off ultrasound video to an expert in this field who made the actual diagnosis and connected us with a cardiothoracic heart surgeon. At this point, only one thing can be done. Ninelle needs a large heart surgery to replace both the valves. It’s not available in this country or anywhere nearby in Africa.
We’ve been in touch with the cardiothoracic surgery team at the largest mission hospital in Africa, Tenwek in Kenya, and it has accepted her as a patient for this surgery, provided we can get her there and pay for the medical treatment needed. We were able to raise enough support and are now in the process of getting official paperwork.
Please pray that she will remain stable during the next few months and that there would be no further health complications. Pray that the family can obtain the appropriate official paperwork, passport and visa, that the travel would go without any complication or issue, and that the surgery will be performed without complication.
Dr. Tenpenny is serving through the World Medical Mission Post-Residency Program, a fully funded two-year program for Christian physicians and their families who have been called to medical missions.