On the auspicious day of her 92nd birthday, Mama Albertina Sisulu celebrated the 400th operation funded by the Walter Sisulu Paediatric Cardiac Foundation (WSPCF) since the organisation’s launch in 2003.
The WSPCF is the largest philanthropic paediatric cardiac foundation in Africa, established as a living legacy to the late Walter Sisulu, which focuses on the delivery of life-saving intervention for underprivileged children with congenital heart disorders from across Africa.
The 400 operations funded by the foundation were undertaken at the Netcare Sunninghill Hospital in Johannesburg, and the Netcare Christian Barnard Memorial and Red Cross Children’s Hospitals in Cape Town.
The 400th operation was baby Angel Grace, who hit the headlines just over a year ago when she was found, abandoned in a storm water drain in Kempton Park.
Baby Grace’s surgery took place this month at the Netcare Sunninghill Hospital, and she made such a great recovery that she was able to share – in person – Mama Sisulu’s birthday celebrations.
Mama Sisulu used the occasion of her birthday brunch, which hosted over 300 guests at The Middleton in Sandton and was sponsored by the WSPCF’s three Platinum sponsors – Netcare, the Vodacom Foundation and Absa, to call upon South Africans to continue helping the WSPCF with its good work, with the launch of the 400 More initiative.
“It warms my heart that so many beautiful children have been given a chance to live their lives to the fullest,” Mama Sisulu said.
“To have accomplished so many operations, without the children and their parents having to pay a single cent, is a great achievement, but more work needs to be done if we are to ensure that our children are taken care of and given the opportunity to realise their full potential.
“It’s for this reason that I am calling on all South Africans to give with their hearts. Every single donation – no matter how small – makes a difference and can help us save an additional 400 young lives,” she added.
According to WSPCF CEO, Lynda Bleazard, an ongoing challenge for the WSPCF has been to widen its donor pool. And to reach the estimated R60m that is required to perform 400 more operations, every funding initiative, campaign and cent that is raised counts.
“Fewer than 20% of children in South Africa and less than 1% of children in the rest of Africa benefit from corrective cardiac surgery – even though 95% of all congenital heart defects are treatable.
“The procedures are very expensive and we rely heavily on the generosity of private organisations and individual donors to pay for the operations that our cardiothoracic surgeons perform on children from all over Africa,” Bleazard said.
In support of the 400 more initiative, Mama Sisulu’s 92nd birthday was marked with the launch of a song and music video, specially created for the WSPCF by popular South African band, Watershed.
Lead singer, Craig Hinds, was inspired during an earlier visit to the WSPCF’s cardiac unit in Netcare Sunninghill and enlisted the band’s help in writing and performing a beautiful song dedicated to the children operated on by the WSPCF – past, present and future.
In addition a new monthly direct debit campaign, organised by parents whose children had heart surgery luckily covered by medical insurance, was launched.
“In keeping with our drive to make donating easier and more accessible, this initiative gives everyone the ability to make small regular donations via debit order towards the running of various support mechanisms and programmes at the Foundation,” Bleazard explains.
Also announced at the event was the exciting news that South African rugby legend, Victor Matfield, had chosen the WSPCF as his charity of choice for the Blood Brothers Testimonial year that he shares with Bakkies Botha. The Blood Brothers Testimonial activities will launch with a star-studded Gala Dinner at Gallagher Estate on 27 October.
“Today was a wonderful celebration of Mama Albertina’s 92nd birthday, and a celebration of her late husband Walter’s living legacy that the 400 to-date operations represent,” said Bleazard.
“Inspired by Mama Albertina’s words of encouragement we will redouble our efforts to extend that living legacy by 400 more young lives saved,” she concluded.