By A Correspondent- A pediatric cardiac centre opened this week at Mpilo Central Hospital to cater for children suffering from heart ailments and is headed by a history-maker, Zimbabwe’s first female paediatric cardiologist.
She was born three months after the country gained its independence from colonial rule and little did she know she would live to be Zimbabwe’s first female pediatric cardiologist.
Dr Davidzo Murigo-Shumba and her male counterpart in Harare Dr Charles Henry Bennerman are the only two pediatric cardiologists in the country.
Pediatric cardiologists specialise in diagnosing and treating heart problems in children.
Dr Murigo-Shumba once worked as a junior doctor at Mpilo before leaving to further her studies in South Africa, only to come back to Zimbabwe a few days before the opening of the Bulawayo pediatric cardiac centre.
Her love for children whose hearts she will be taking care of dates back to the 1980s in Bikita where she was raised.
She went to Victoria High School in Masvingo and proceeded to the University of Zimbabwe where she studied medicine before chasing her dream to specialise in pediatrics- a branch of medicine that involves the medical care of infants, children and adolescents.
Dr Murigo-Shumba spent four years specialising in pediatrics in neighbouring South Africa and three years to become a pediatric cardiologist.
She decided to come back home and serve hundreds of children who have struggled to access the services locally.
Pediatric cardiologists diagnose, treat, and manage heart problems in children, including congenital heart disease (abnormalities of the heart children are born with) such as holes between chambers of the heart, valve problems and abnormal blood vessels.
In Zimbabwe children with congenital heart diseases could only access life saving treatment in South Africa or India.
It is estimated that the services which were not accessible locally as there were no specialists like Dr Murigo-Shumba cost a minimum of US$10 000 excluding travel and accommodation costs.
A number of affected children have lost their lives in search of the services as charges were beyond the reach of ordinary Zimbabweans.
Only a handful secured sponsorship to travel to India and South Africa for medical care.
Dr Murigo-Shumba said her love for children motivated her to invest her time and brains in studying cardiology as she is aware that many are suffering in Zimbabwe without local interventions.
She is now back in Zimbabwe to play her part.
She is the second pediatric cardiologist in the country after Dr Bannerman based in Harare.
Dr Murigo-Shumba is stationed at the recently opened cardiology unit at Mpilo Central Hospital’s pediatric hospital to serve the people from the Southern region which includes Bulawayo, Masvingo, Midlands, Matabeleland North and South provinces.
“My name is Davidzo Murigo-Shumba, a pediatric cardiologist who specialises in caring for children with heart diseases. I am happy to be back at Mpilo where I was a junior doctor some time back while I was doing medicine,” she said.
“I have been training at the KwaZulu Natal University in Durban where I spent four years specialising in pediatrics and then an additional three years to become a pediatric cardiologist.”
“I love children and it brings a smile to my face and heart when I eliminate the pain they are going through. So that is a passion for me. While I was training in pediatrics I was exposed to many other specialities and I fell in love with pediatric cardiology,” she said.
“I had this passion and desire to help them as I know they go through this suffering because non-communicable diseases do not get as much attention in Zimbabwe in general.”
Dr Murigo-Shumba said she is ready to join forces with other pediatrics at Mpilo and other health care workers to help children with heart diseases.
She also said heart diseases are prevalent and urged communities to take time and read around them so that they are able to help their children once affected.
“I am back home and came a few days ago just in time for the pediatric cardiology ward opening and I look upward to working with the rest of the team at Mpilo, the rest of the country to try and improve health care cardiology in our children. My focus will be to ensure that these specialised services are available locally here at Mpilo so that we save lives,” she said.
“This is because some of these heart diseases, if not treated within the first few days of life, one may die. Trying to get the diagnosis, looking for money to travel to India may serve no good hence we are happy that the Ministry is pushing that we have our own services right here in Zimbabwe.”
On being the first female pediatric cardiologist, Dr Murigo-Shumba said it was made possible by her parents’ and community support.
She said the girl child can grow into anything they like in Zimbabwe as the sky is the limit.
“I had supportive parents who motivated me to think big from the time I was in Bikita where I come from. I have never looked back since then and even now with my two daughters, I know they can live to be great assets in this country as long as I support them. To fellow women and girls, I say the sky is the limit, let us dream big and never allow to be told we cannot do it!”
Renowned Bulawayo pediatrician Dr Wedu Ndebele said the opening of the cardiology unit at Mpilo was a dream come true for the region.
He said he can happily die knowing that children will access specialised services at the hospital.
“I am happy to have witnessed this day because for years it pained us to see our children going through heart diseases knowing that there was nothing we could do locally. Now that we have a unit and our own specialist Dr Murigo-Shumba, I can die now because there is a future for our children. This is something worth celebrating and we are grateful to the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Brave Little Hearts — an organisation that lobbied for this unit and all our stakeholders who keep supporting us in the journey of saving lives,” said Dr Ndebele.
According to the latest World Health Organisation data published in 2018 Coronary Heart Disease Deaths in Zimbabwe reached 5 896 or 4,96 percent of total deaths.
In children, congenital heart diseases end up becoming deadly because of late diagnosis and lack of necessary interventions.
On Wednesday, Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world in marking World Heart Day which is observed annually on September 29 with calls for combined efforts to end heart-related diseases whose prevalence is growing.